Pentagon Adds New Measures To Combat Sexual Assault

Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon has announced additional measures to combat sexual assault. The Pentagon continues to resist proposals that would take prosecution of sexual assault out of the chain of command, but some lawmakers say that's the step that would make a difference.

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The Pentagon announced new measures today intended to reduce sexual assault in the military. But as NPR's Larry Abramson reports, those steps will not satisfy some members of Congress. They've been pushing for stronger reforms.

LARRY ABRAMSON, BYLINE: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says all the services will appoint special legal advocates for victims of sexual assault. The Air Force has already been doing this, and the program has been well received as a way to protect victims' rights. In addition, Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti told reporters all sexual assault cases will be reported to a higher level than is now required, to a general or an admiral.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL CURTIS SCAPARROTTI: It's so that we ensure immediate oversight at an experienced level for the actions that take place from a point that we know of the report and beyond.

ABRAMSON: Advocates for victims welcomed these steps but said they fall short. Many victims say the Pentagon must remove commanders from decisions on whether to pursue sexual assault cases. The biggest supporter of such a change, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, today, once again, said that victims are reluctant to report these cases up the chain of command because they fear retaliation.

Congressional leadership has not backed this idea but has supported other measures similar to those announced by the military today. The Pentagon remains opposed to removing commanders from these decisions, saying it would undercut efforts to make military leaders more responsible for combating sexual assault. Larry Abramson, NPR News.

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