Mike Turner today heard testimony from Dayton area attorney Merle Wilberding on the progress of the Department of Defense in responding to sexual assault allegations within the Armed Services.
U.S. Representative Mike Turner today heard testimony from Dayton area attorney Merle Wilberding on the progress of the Department of Defense in responding to sexual assault allegations within the Armed Services. Wilberding testified this afternoon before the House Oversight and Government Reform National Security and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee during a hearing on the status of reforms within the Defense Department in countering sexual assault allegations among military service members.
Merle Wilberding, the Dayton area attorney who represented Marine LCpl Maria Lauterbach’s family, testified before the Subcommittee on the progress of the Department in responding to sexual assault allegations in the Armed Forces. Rep. Turner requested that the Subcommittee allow Mr. Wilberding to testify.
“All too often ‘victim advocates’ have been ‘victim listeners.’ Victims of sexual assault need advocates who are more proactive and who are independent of the base chain of command,” Wilberding said.
“I have worked with my colleagues in the Congress and with Defense Department officials to increase the accountability of the Department and military personnel services to better monitor, report and investigate sexual assault allegations and to implement improved prevention programs,” said Rep. Turner, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee. “I appreciate Merle’s work on behalf of the Lauterbach family. Our military personnel deserve greater protections both on and off the battlefield.”
Last year, Rep. Turner worked with U.S. Representative Jane Harman (D-Calif.-36) to add provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require:
- A GAO study of each military service’s ability to investigate and adjudicate sexual assault allegations.
- The Department of Defense to create a sexual assault prevention program and report to Congress on its status including an action plan for reducing sexual assaults and a timeline for implementation; a mechanism for outcome measurement; and training courses for commanders and senior enlisted personnel.
- The Department of Defense to report on the availability of sexual assault forensic exams in combat zones; any barriers that exist; and legislative actions needed to improve availability of forensic exams.
- The Department of Defense to report annually to Congress whether a Military Protective Order (MPO) was issued in a sexual assault in the armed services.
- The Secretary of Defense to ensure that when a military protective order is issued, the service member requesting the MPO is informed of their right to request a transfer.
In 2008, Rep. Turner successfully added language to the defense authorization bill that would require Military Protective Orders be made standing orders and that civilian authorities be notified when a MPO is issued and affects off-base personnel. After considerable review, Members of Congress agreed that the Military Protective Orders which were in use did not provide sufficient protection to uniformed personnel.
Today’s hearing was the fourth in a series the Subcommittee has convened since 2008 examining the progress that has been made by the Defense Department.