Senators Josh Hawley, Kirsten Gillibrand Lead Legislation to Improve Military Response to Sexual Assault

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Today U.S. Senators Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced legislation to improve the U.S. military’s response to sexual assault. The Professionalizing the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Act tasks the Department of Defense with evaluating options for establishing a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) military operational specialty (MOS) and reporting its findings and recommendations to Congress. The Hawley-Gillibrand bill comes after the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee reported on growing concerns of SARCs lacking the training and resources needed to be effective at providing support to military sexual assault victims.

“America’s service members make untold sacrifices on our nation’s behalf, and it is our responsibility to ensure those who need support can get it. This legislation would aid the Department of Defense in identifying next steps to professionalize the role of Sexual Assault Response Coordinator throughout all branches of the military — a role that requires adequate training, resources, and support to provide service members with the best care possible.”

Senator Josh Hawley

“To combat the epidemic of sexual assault in our military we must professionalize every part of the military justice system, including Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs). SARCs are an essential part of the front lines of combating military sexual assault and Congress has a duty to ensure SARCs have the training, resources, and independence to support our men and women in uniform,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “I’m proud to co-lead this bipartisan legislation as we work to eradicate the scourge of sexual assault in our military.”

“Securing justice for survivors of sexual assault and abuse is critical,” said Senator Cramer. “Our legislation would give Congress and the Defense Department the information they need to professionalize the role of Sexual Assault Response Coordinators in the military and ensure the best resources and training are provided to support victims of sexual assault.”

“I am pleased to be a cosponsor and vote in favor of  S. 1520, legislation that is well overdue, and will make great strides to support victims of Sexual Assault in the military,” said Senator Ben Cardin. “Our bipartisan legislation will allow victims of sexual assaults to have more privacy, will incentivize victims to report more cases, and increase the prevention of sexual assaults and other crimes in the military. Our troops already sacrifice so much to protect this nation, they need to know Congress prioritizes their personal safety and security.”

“Survivors of sexual assault should have the best possible care. In order to ensure that, the military needs trained professionals helping support men and women after these horrific events, and this bipartisan effort will help us do that,” said Senator Ernst.

More information on the Professionalizing the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Act is below and the full text of the legislation can be found here.

Professionalizing the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Act

Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs) form the backbone of the United States military’s efforts to provide sexual assault victims with the support they need, from medical treatment to legal assistance. These first-line responders play an essential role in our military’s response to sexual assault, but they often lack the training and resources they need to be effective. The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee report highlighted these concerns, as did recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel.

The Professionalizing the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Act addresses these challenges by tasking the Department of Defense to evaluate and report on the optimal execution of a SARC MOS across all branches of the military. The Act mandates, in particular, that the evaluation and report address the following considerations: 

  • The appropriate rank and level of experience for prospective recipients of a SARC MOS.
  • Strengthening incentives for high-performing service members to obtain and serve as a SARC MOS, including by designating the SARC MOS as a secondary MOS.
  • Options for standardizing training and education for SARC MOSs.
  • Requirements for SARC-specific chain of command to provide service members serving as SARC MOSs with required support and guidance.
  • The impact of creating a SARC MOS on existing SARC programming.

The evaluation and report mandated by this Act will ensure Congress and the Department of Defense have the information required to professionalize the SARC role, so that SARCs have the training and other resources they need to provide the most effective support possible to victims of sexual assault.