Today, Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) and Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, introduced the PROTECT Act, new legislation that continues the lawmakers’ bipartisan effort to combat sexual assault in the military. The Prevent Retaliation and Open Transparency to Expand Care for Troops (PROTECT) Act calls for increased transparency in the military justice system, greater protection for survivors and witnesses from retaliation, better survivor access to court information and an increased focus on treatment for male survivors of sexual assault.
“Accountability begins at the top and must extend across the military, to every rank and position. The PROTECT Act works to increase transparency and protect survivors and those affected by this crime,” said Rep. Turner. “This legislation is a step closer to changing the current flawed system and will help to bring those offenders to justice. Our servicemen and women sacrifice so much for our country and they deserve to know they are protected against the retaliation that often coincides with this crime. Rep. Tsongas and I have worked together over the years to fight for those who need it most and I appreciate her ongoing dedication to our nation’s military.”
“The PROTECT Act aims to ensure justice for survivors, witnesses, and military families against glaring deficiencies in the military justice system,” said Rep. Tsongas. “Too many victims still fear the social and professional retaliation that so often occurs when they work within the military justice system. It all evidences a flawed military culture and underscores the fact that much more needs to be done. This legislation will take much needed steps in changing the status quo by increasing transparency, training and protections afforded to survivors. And it does what should have been done long ago – make professional retaliation a crime. I thank Rep. Turner for his dedication to this cause and look forward to our continued work together.”
The PROTECT Act would:
- Create a specific article in the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizing professional retaliation against victims and witnesses of crimes.
- Require specific retaliation investigation training for Department of Defense (DOD) investigators.
- Require DOD to report data on sexual assaults against spouses, intimate partners, and children to Congress.
- Require the DOD to create a website where victims, witnesses, and members of the public can access key court-martial information, including docketed court dates, key court documents, and records of trial.
- Encourage the DOD to provide treatment options, including intensive therapy, to male victims of sexual assault.
Recent reports and testimony, including witnesses at the Judicial Proceedings Panel, have highlighted deficiencies in the military system that often leaves survivors unprotected, without access to basic court documents and information. In addition, the military criminal justice system currently does not designate a crime to specifically punish acts of professional retaliation against survivors and witnesses of crimes, and instances of retaliation are often investigated by untrained or under-trained personnel.
On June 18, 2015 Air Force Special Victims Counsel Captain Micah Smith testified before the Judicial Proceedings Panel regarding the Inspector General’s ability to adequately investigate claims of retaliation, stating, “It's been my experience that the IG program that we currently have is not set up to handle retaliation as I've seen it.”
On November 14, 2014, Meg Garvin, Executive Director, National Crime Victims' Law Institute, testified before the Judicial Proceedings Panel concerning the need for transparency in the military justice system. Ms. Garvin explained, “Everyone in this system has to have access to similar, if not equivalent information throughout the criminal investigation and prosecution, and then post-conviction. And the reason that has to happen is both the lawyer who is representing the victim and the victim need to know what is happening in the room that everyone else knows. A lawyer simply cannot counsel a victim on the best course of advocacy the best course of action if they are denied access to information about what is happening in proceedings.”