The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) commends Congress for including important provisions in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to improve survivor access to safety and justice. These critical changes are responsive to the recommendations made by the Independent Commission on Sexual Assault, led by former White House Advisor on Gender-Based Violence, Lynn Rosenthal, and supported by President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. They have also been championed by Representative Jackie Speier and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Joni Ernst. To all of these champions, we say, thank you!
Until now, military commanders handled allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and related crimes against service members under their command. This created conflicts of interest and allowed perpetrators to escape accountability. NDAA will establish a new office within the Department of Defense, the Office of Special Trial Counsel, which will decide whether to charge an individual with a crime, and cases will be tried by special victims prosecutors. The Department of Defense will also be required to collect information about domestic violence incidents and the disposition thereof.
Says NCADV’s President/CEO, Ruth M. Glenn, “We appreciate Congress’s and the Administration’s commitment to promoting safety and justice for victims and survivors who experience abuse at the hands of service members. For too long, many of these victims and survivors have been ignored and had their cases swept under the rug. These changes will help to ensure survivors are heard and recognized.”
NCADV is disappointed the NDAA does not include provisions to strengthen military protective orders by having them issued by a court rather than a commanding officer in order to qualify for full faith and credit across state lines. Such a change would also have ensured federal firearms laws prohibiting respondents to final protective orders apply to service members when they are not on duty. We call on Congress to include this critical fix in the Fiscal Year 2023 NDAA.