A bill sponsored by Assemblywomen Annette Chaparro (D-33), Cleopatra Tucker (D-28), and Diane Grove (R-9), to create a program to address sexual assault in the military cleared the Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee last week.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Each year there are thousands of sexual assaults that take place in the military – with many more incidents of harassment and assault going unreported due to a lack of support for victims and fear of retaliation,” Chaparro and Tucker said in a joint statement.
“Some service members have even described a culture that actually fosters these unsafe situations. We cannot turn a blind eye to the sexual harassment and assault that takes place in the military … just because our soldiers face danger on the battlefield does not mean they should have to worry about danger off the battlefield as well.”
Bill (A-5784) would establish a sexual assault prevention and response program in the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and require the Adjutant General to appoint a person to serve as the sexual assault prevention coordinator.
The coordinator would provide victim advocacy services, such as ensuring victims receive appropriate responsive care, understand their reporting options, and are notified if they are eligible for compensation through New Jersey’s Victims of Crime Compensation Office.
The coordinator may also file an application for a protective order on behalf of the victim, if the victim so chooses.
Through the program itself, victims would be able to file a confidential complaint of sexual harassment and convert it to a formal complaint if/whenever they want.
They would also be able to receive notice if the person who harassed/assaulted them is accused of another offense, and participate in the U.S. Department of Defense ‘Catch a Serial Offender Program.’
The program would apply to alleged sexual assaults committed by a service member against another service member, regardless of whether it took place on or off duty.
An annual report would be submitted to the state legislature and governor with an analysis of the number of sexual assaults involving the New Jersey National Guard, an assessment of the prevention program’s effectiveness, any policies or procedures implemented by DMVA to help prevent sexual assault, and more.
The bill now heads to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) for further consideration.