Military Still Lags in Assisting Victims of Sexual Assault

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"They may know the perpetrator or victim," said Dick of the colonels. "Most commanders are horrified by this and want to do the right thing. We should not put them in this position [where they have] a conflict of interest."

The Defense Department's Patton said that taking the authority to discipline out of the chain of command would threaten the ability of the military to be effective.

"Removing the disciplinary authorities from a commander's purview would jeopardize the good order and discipline of the unit, and impact unit readiness," he said.

After years of not wanting to talk about her time in the military, McClendon started working with Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group that assists military survivors of sexual trauma, in 2009.

"I don't want another generation to feel like they're alone," McClendon said. "Those serving today, I don't want them betrayed."

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