Panetta testifies on sex assault policy

April 17, 2012 at 1:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, April 17 (UPI) -- Local unit U.S. military commanders will be required to report charges of sexual assault to their superiors, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday.

Panetta testified at a congressional hearing on the problem of sexual assault in the armed forces. He said the military has already taken some steps to deal with the issue and plans to do much more.

His department also plans to create special victims units in each branch of the military, Panetta said. Prosecutors and investigators in those units will be trained in evidence collection for sex crimes and how to question victims.

Members of the National Guard and Reserves who file sexual assault complaints will remain on active duty until the cases are resolved, Panetta said. Military recruits will also receive training on sexual assault within 14 days of starting active duty.

"There's no silver bullet when it comes to this issue, but what is required is that everyone from the secretary to the chairman of the joint chiefs all the way down at every command level be sensitive to this issue, be aware to take their responsibility to take action on these cases," Panetta said.

The military also plans to step up publicity about measures like the sexual-assault hotline and require commanders to provide assessments of attitudes in their units.

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