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GAO Report Reveals Department of Defense Improving Sexual Assault Policy

Date: April 11 2012

New York, NY – On Tuesday, The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report outlining the steps the Department of Defense (DOD) has made since 2007 on improving sexual assault prevention policy for the military services.  The report, written at the request of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), documents DOD’s implementation of recommendations made by the multiple GAO reports published from February 2007 to March of 2010.

The GAO made 25 recommendations to DOD in this time frame. Currently DOD has fully implemented l3 GAO recommendations and partially implemented l2. These recommendations pertain to reporting, documentation, investigation and training.

“Over time, the Pentagon has notoriously ignored the advice of experts, including its own task forces and studies, so it is encouraging that the DOD is taking steps to implement GAO policy recommendations,” said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps captain and executive director of Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).  “However, these are very recent steps that represent incremental changes to a department that has touted a ‘zero tolerance policy’ on sexual assault in the ranks for more than a quarter-century.  Because of this institutional recalcitrance, military sexual assault has reached epidemic proportions with as many as 52 assaults occurring every day. Clearly much more needs to be done by the Pentagon institutionally to ensure justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.”

Since 2008, the GAO has issued four reports to help inform congressional deliberations on issues related to sexual assault in the military. Additionally, representatives from the GAO have testified three times before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on its findings.

“Sexual assault is a crime that has a far-reaching negative impact on individuals, families, and communities,” the report states. “It also has additional implications for the military services because it undermines their core values, degrades mission readiness and esprit de corps, subverts strategic goodwill, and raises financial costs.”

On May 8th in Washington, DC, SWAN will be hosting more than 150 survivors of military sexual assault, allies, policy experts and law makers at the first-ever Summit on Military Sexual Violence. Legal experts will discuss options for systemic improvements to military policies and survivors and family members will share personal experiences with the public, elected officials and the media.

To read the full GAO report, click here.
For information on the Summit on Military Sexual Violence, click here.
SWAN is a national civil rights organization founded and led by women veterans. SWAN’s vision is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans' services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families. You can follow Service Women’s Action Network on Twitter at, or on Facebook at

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