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A California congresswoman wants to protect military recruits during training by barring sexual advances from instructors.
The Protect Our Military Trainees Act would prohibit an instructor from engaging in sex with a trainee during the time of instruction and for up to 30 days after the training has ended.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, is chief sponsor of the measure, which she says is a direct response to the rape, sexual abuse, harassment and misconduct allegations lodged against training instructors at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, where all Air Force enlisted members receive initial training.
Fraternization policies already prohibit sexual conduct between ranks in most cases, but Speier's legislation would prevent any uncertainty by flatly prohibiting any sexual contact.
She introduced the bill Friday, two days after the armed services committee held a hearing about the Lackland investigation that so far has uncovered 59 victims and 32 alleged perpetrators.
In some cases, instructors have admitted sexual activity but claimed it was consensual. Speier said that ignores the power an instructor has over a new recruit. She raised the issue of consent during the Jan. 23 hearing, saying the 17- to 19-year-old recruits "were young, they were naïve, and they were earnest."
"My daughter would no more have the ability to say no to a [Military Training Instructor] than one of these trainees, who are taught [that] you do everything that the training instructor tells you," Speier said.
Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., an Army Reserve colonel and Iraq veteran, is a cosponsor of the bill, which was referred to the armed services committee for consideration.
In a statement, Speier said, "All sexual advances by a training instructor toward a trainee are indefensible because consent is impossible in this power dynamic. Trainees are taught from day one that nothing an MTI says ends with a question mark — recruits must obey every order given and every task demanded."