Pentagon orders measures to prevent sexual assaults

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The Pentagon on Tuesday announced new initiatives aimed at reducing the incidence of sexual assault within the ranks.

The Pentagon directed the services to improve sexual assault prevention training for commanders and senior enlisted members, report progress to the defense secretary by Dec. 20, and implement changes by March 30.

The services also were directed to review basic training practices, including how instructors are selected and trained, instructor-to-student ratios and the addition of more female instructors.

The Pentagon also ordered the services to review oversight of sexual assault prevention measures and report to the defense secretary by Feb. 8 recommendations and findings in that area and in basic training.

“While we have put many new policies in place to address sexual assault and its impact on the victim, recent events at Lackland Air Force Base make clear that we still have more work to do,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Tuesday in a memo to the military services, referring to the revelation in June that training instructors at Lackland had sexually harassed and assaulted trainees.

The Defense Department’s move is based on a nine-month review of sexual assault prevention training in the military. According to a Pentagon briefing in April, there were 3,192 reports of sexual assaults in the ranks in 2011.

“Sexual assault is an affront to basic human values. It is a crime that hurts survivors, their families, their friends and their units. In turn, sexual assault reduces overall military readiness,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said Tuesday.

He added that the newest members of the military usually are the most vulnerable and likely to experience sexual assault.

“The goal of this department is to establish a culture free from the crime of sexual assault, and one that deters potential perpetrators and supports survivors,” Mr. Little said.

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