Congressman Mike Turner (OH-10) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-3), Co-Chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, introduced the Purposefully Expanding and Reinforcing the Statutes we Insist Support our Troops Against Military Sexual Trauma Act (PERSIST Against MST Act) today to combat sexual assault in the military. This legislation has been included in the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel mark for the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2019.

This bill:

  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to designate a single official or entity within the Office of the Secretary of Defense to take on the principal responsibility for providing oversight of the registered sex offender management program of the DoD and to provide a briefing to Congress on its efforts with an update no later than June 1, 2019;
  • Ensures that victims of sexual assault in the military, even if their case is handled by the Family Advocacy Program, have the choice to request an expedited transfer to a different location;  
  • Mandates the government hand over any information requested by an independent panel, the Defense Advisory Committee on Investigation, Prosecution, and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, that the panel deems necessary to carry out its duties. 

“Today’s legislation is a continuation of the bipartisan work Congresswoman Tsongas and I have done for over a decade to combat sexual assault in the military,” said Congressman Turner. “Specifically, DoD has to report incidents of sexual assault to the appropriate investigative body in order for it to fully conduct its oversight duties. This year we learned the DoD does not have a single office responsible for ensuring compliance of sex offenders in registering, which is unacceptable. Our bill will require a designated person or entity within DoD to provide oversight and ensure all sex offenders are being registered with the appropriate state and local authorities.

Additionally, this year’s prevention of sexual assault in the military bill helps victims transfer quickly and requires more thorough oversight by DoD of sex offenders,” continued Congressman Turner. “Victims of sexual assault should be able to transfer quickly and without undue burden. Maria Lauterbach, a victim of sexual assault who was murdered and was a constituent of mine, was unable to transfer quickly. That failure by the DoD may have cost Maria her life. We need to ensure that cannot happen again.”

“The PERSIST Against MST Act is another opportunity for us to help survivors of sexual assault navigate bureaucratic roadblocks that prevent them from seeking the support they deserve,” said Congresswoman Tsongas. “This legislation ensures proper oversight over the way our military justice system works and will help make sure convictions of sexual assault in the military don’t fall through the cracks.

I’m especially proud of the role that Mr. Turner and I have been able to play in challenging the ways the military handles this heinous crime,” continued Congresswoman Tsongas. “Year after year, we have reached across the aisle and co-authored historic reforms to confront and blunt the inexcusable fact of sexual assault in the military and better support survivors by giving them essential legal tools to seek justice. Our working relationship is an example of how two legislators from opposite sides of the aisle can come together to collaborate on issues that directly impact the American people.”