After several high-profile stories of the U.S. military’s poor handling of sexual assault and harassment cases, the Army has revealed that it is implementing nearly all of the recommendations from the Fort Hood report and an Independent Review Commission.
Here are the details:
Fort Hood report
After a scathing report of chronic safety failures at Fort Hood, the resulting review made 70 recommendations on the handling of sexual assault and harassment crimes. The U.S. Army has committed to implementing 63 of those 70 recommendations as well as four out of six recommendations from the Independent Review Commission.
Office of the Special Trial Counsel
One of the results has been the placement of 29 special trial counsels, trained in prosecuting cases of sexual assault, rape, and other violent offenses. This was in response to the revelation that Army investigators were “vastly inexperienced, overwhelmed and understaffed, resulting in failures to protect service members and their families.”
This move also removes commanders from participating in these cases, after a pattern of negligence in the handling of sexual assault cases had been revealed.
A review of 450 military special victims cases between 2018 and 2020 revealed a shocking number of failures by branches of the armed forces when investigating sexual assault cases. These cases usually involved prosecutors who were inexperienced and had no training in sex crimes, resulting in victims receiving poor legal advice. The worst by far were the Air Force statistics, which showed that 94% of cases were mishandled. The Army and Navy failed in 59% of cases.
Changes to sexual assault prosecutions
Though it will be some time before there’s actionable data on any changes in how sexual assault cases are handled in the military, these high-profile adjustments signal a more aggressive approach to prosecution. With trained attorneys working these cases and fewer institutional obstacles, future cases will likely be tried with renewed vigor.
With these positive changes going into effect, it’s important to remember that people accused of crimes still deserve a fair defense. If you are facing charges, consult an experienced military attorney immediately.