NDAA Advances Efforts to Protect Military Trainees from Sexual Assault
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, with passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congress advanced Congresswoman Lois Frankel’s efforts to protect military personnel from sexual abuse by their supervisors or commanding officers. The legislation creates a new offense in the Uniform Code of Military Justice that will prohibit a person in a training leadership position or serving as a military recruiter from engaging in prohibited sexual activity with a military recruit.
“This law advances the fight to protect our men and women from sexual abuse while serving our country,” said Frankel, a mother of a United States Marine war veteran. “Those in uniform selflessly protect us and we must do everything possible to protect them.”
Inspired by the traumatic story of constituent Elisha Morrow, a former Coast Guard recruit, Frankel has been advocating for a change in military law in order to better protect military personnel from abuse at the hands of their superiors. In Morrow’s case, her Company Commander used boot camp tactics to sexually harass female recruits, including Morrow, and, in at least one situation, ordered a recruit to have sexual relations with him.
After complaints by the recruit, a military prosecutor determined that the current sexual assault law did not apply to circumstances where physical force was not used and charged the perpetrator with minor offenses that led to a sentence of only one year confinement. Shocked by the injustice, Morrow brought the story to Frankel. The duo teamed up to amend the law, testifying in front of two different military panels and Frankel joining forces with Senator Bill Nelson and Congresswoman Jackie Speier to champion the cause.
“Though we still have work to do, it is encouraging to see movement in the right direction,” Morrow said. “I cannot thank Congresswoman Frankel and her staff enough for their efforts to fix our broken military justice system.”
NDAA 2017 now goes to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. The new legislation will give the President the authority to determine what is considered a prohibited sexual activity and the corresponding penalties.
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