U.S. Rep. Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., (at podium) and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, at a press conference in Dayton in August 2016. BARRIE BARBER/STAFF
Photo: Barrie Barber
Photo: Barrie Barber

Turner bill would expand military sexual assault victims rights

Two House lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow the military’s highest court to hear appeals from sexual assault survivors on decisions during trial proceedings, officials say.

U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, and Nikki Tsongas, D-Mass., have co-introduced the BE HEARD Act, which stands for Building an Environment for Helpful, Effective, and Accessible Representation and Decision-making. The two are co-chairpersons of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus.

RELATED: Military sexual assault protections may expand to civilian base workers

Under the legislation, Air Force lawyers who aid sexual assault survivors would be required to receive specialized training on how sexual assault impacts male victims. The bill also would let military judges appoint legal representatives for minors who have been sexually assaulted or those who are incapable of representing themselves prior to filing charges against an alleged perpetrator.

RELATED: Turner introduces bill to combat sexual assaults in the military

“Sexual assault in the military is unacceptable,” Turner said. “BE HEARD will require Special Victims Counsel to undergo specialized training to better understand how survivors cope with the trauma of military sexual assault. BE HEARD also explicitly reinforces survivors’ rights throughout the judicial process, expanding access to the military’s highest court and ensuring timely legal representation while also improving protections for individuals who cannot represent themselves.”

Turner and Tsongas have collaborated on other bills addressing the issue of military sexual assault in the ranks.

“The BE HEARD Act takes important steps to correct deficiencies in the military justice system,” Tsongas said in a statement.

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