- Associated Press - Monday, February 17, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - State senators gave preliminary approval Monday to legislation that would establish more rules for dealing with sexual abuse in the Iowa National Guard.

A Senate subcommittee backed a bill that would require the Iowa National Guard to provide an annual report to the state Legislature about the sexual abuse allegations reported the previous year. Some other provisions included in the initial draft - such as mandatory reporting of military sexual abuse allegations to local law enforcement authorities - are still being worked out.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, said he wants to make sure that abuse victims are protected.

“This is a major deal and we’ve got to make sure we’re protecting victims. We do want victims to feel comfortable, whether they’re in the Guard or not in the Guard, to report these crimes,” Sodders said.

But officials from the Iowa National Guard said that requiring reporting to law enforcement might negatively impact some victims, who currently can access medical services and support without alerting their superiors or pursuing legal action, by providing what is called a “restricted” report. An “unrestricted” report would be reported to military authorities.

“The concern is … any policy that reduces the options and rights of victims,” said 1st Lt. Joel Sage, the sexual assault response coordinator for the Iowa National Guard.

Rebecca Stout, an attorney for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, also questioned the mandatory reporting proposal.

“No two victims ever respond the same way. They all have different needs. They have different wants. They have different ideas of justice,” Stout said.

The legislation will now move to the full Senate Veterans Committee for review. Sodders said he wants to work with various stakeholders to amend the bill and expressed optimism that they could work something out before a legislative deadline at the end of the week.

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