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Connolly, Speier Introduce Bill to Address Intimate Partner Violence in the Military

Congressman Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, introduced legislation today that would better address domestic violence in the U.S. military. The provisions included in the legislation were also included in the House-passed version of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act.

Specifically, the legislation would create a system of Military Court Protective Orders, allowing military judges and magistrates to issue court protective orders that comply with the Violence Against Women Act. The currently available military protective orders, which are issued by commanders, in many cases are not recognized by civilian law enforcement, placing survivors of intimate partner violence at heightened risk of further threats and violence. The new court orders, which could be requested by a commander, a survivor, or a survivor’s representative, would provide better protection and enforceability for servicemembers and family members experiencing intimate partner violence.

The bill would also establish a Military-Civilian Task Force on Domestic Violence to make recommendations to improve the military’s efforts to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence. In addition to military representatives, the task force membership would include civilians with expertise in domestic violence prevention and response and experience in providing services to survivors. The Department of Defense would also be required to regularly collect data on the prevalence of domestic violence involving servicemembers, their intimate partners, and immediate family members, and to annually report to Congress an assessment of the prevalence of domestic violence within the military community, as well as data on convictions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, nonjudicial punishment, and recidivism related to intimate partner violence.

“Abuse is abuse, and every victim of domestic violence – be they military or civilian – must be entitled to enforceable measures of protection from their abusers,” said Congressman Gerry Connolly. “By allowing military protective orders to carry the same weight as their civilian counterparts and establishing a task force on domestic violence within the Department of Defense, we can better provide justice for victims and fundamentally improve how the US Military addresses intimate partner violence among servicemembers and their families.”

“The military says all the right words when hauled before Congress and we’ve spent millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to end this scourge, but misogyny continues and perpetrators are more often promoted than prosecuted while compliance is more likely to be rewarded over the courage to speak out in the face of injustice,” Rep. Speier said. “That failure has resulted in too many victims of intimate partner violence, survivors of rape, and those who have been denigrated by sexual violence and harassment. And I’ve spoken with many military lawyers who tell me that when survivors do come forward, too often the currently issued military protective orders are not respected by civilian law enforcement and fail to offer meaningful protection. This bill would provide better protection for those suffering intimate partner violence while requiring DoD to track and report to Congress these cases so that we have the data needed to identify and cut out the root of this ongoing problem.”

Full text of the legislation is available here.

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