The Associated Press
Trying to stem the tide of sexual assaults in the military, Congress late last year approved a defense policy bill with three dozen provisions aimed at strengthening the Defense Department's ability to protect victims and increase prosecution of offenders.
The changes include:
ALTERING COMMANDERS' ROLES: Senior officers were stripped of their authority to overturn jury convictions. They also face automatic reviews should they elect not to prosecute a sexual assault case. Commanders are required to immediately refer reports of sex crimes to military criminal investigators.
PROTECTING, EMPOWERING VICTIMS: Victims of sexual assault must be assigned their own independent legal counsel. Retaliating against victims who report a sexual assault is a crime punishable under military law. Commanders may no longer consider the character and service record of those accused of sex crimes when deciding whether to move forward with a case.
GETTING TOUGHER WITH OFFENDERS: A service member convicted of sexual assault must be dishonorably discharged. Commanders are empowered to temporarily reassign or remove from their units service members alleged to have committed a sexual assault. Individuals who have been convicted of serious sexual offenses such as rape and incest are barred from entering military service.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.