Oct 6, 2014 8:33 PM
Bipartisan bill to help National Guard victims of sexual assault
CONCORD - As they protect our country, the victims of sexual assault in the National Guard need protection and help, as well.
But would you be surprised to know that as of right now, the U.S. Army gives legal services to the victims but falls short when it comes to helping them when they're not on their drill weekends or military duty.
Now, two U.S. Senators, including Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), want to work with the National Guard to change that.
At the New Hampshire National Guard in Concord, Sgt. Major Jason Speltz has worked with victims of sexual assault for years.
"First and foremost we provide support," he Sgt. Speltz said when it comes to working with sexual assault victims.
Now, to provide even more support, Senator Ayotte and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are introducing bipartisan legislation to make sure survivors of sexual assault get the help they need if there's any connection between the crime and their service.
This comes shortly after the U.S. Army expanded legal services to certain victims but this new legislation gives special victims counsel regardless of when those assaults took place.
"We're always in support of them helping out and generally speaking, the military chain of command and the Congressional delegations," said Sgt. Speltz. "They're all looking for the same thing. They're all wanting to eradicate sexual harassment, sexual assault from the service."
Senator Ayotte released a statement saying, in part:
"Our guard members have been integral in defending our nation in every conflict. This bill would ensure that our guard and reserve members receive the same protection as all our men and women in uniform....."
In the meantime, Senator Klobuchar said in part:
"Our servicemembers put their lives on the line to support and protect our country, and we must support and protect them. This bill would ensure (they) receive the support they need and deserve."
Sgt. Speltz agreed.
"It's good news," he said. "It shows that our Congressional delegation is engaged and that they're looking at specific nuisances that help the individual soldier."
Meantime, Senator Ayotte is a former prosecutor who serves on the armed services committee, has worked to protect and empower sexual assault victims, prosecute sexual predators, as well as working to hold military commanders accountable.