DOD sex assault prevention efforts fall short, critics say

Panetta announces new measures to combat sexual assault

WASHINGTON — While praising some of the new steps to combat sexual violence that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday, critics say the Pentagon isn’t going nearly far enough.

Measures outlined by Panetta included training military advocates for sexual assault victims to the highest national standards. Meanwhile, $9.3 million would be spent on training to give rape investigations and prosecutions more teeth, he said, providing servicemembers the protection they deserve.

“We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor,” Panetta said.

But that doesn’t cut to the heart of the problem, said Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network.

“Commander influence is the crux of this problem,” Bhagwati said in a news release. “Spending an extra $10 million training military lawyers to try these cases does no good if commanders are not preferring sexual assault cases to trial.”

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