The new sexual assault policy for the Department of Defense, announced on Tuesday, includes clear steps to prevent sexual assault, protect victims and increase accountability.

While delivering the new policy to Congress, a Department of Defense spokesperson said that the “department is moving forward to make real changes and to make those changes stick.”

In a summary of policy, the Pentagon acknowledged that previous sexual assault prevention programs varied among services in breadth and depth, and that there was a need for more consistency. Along with a specific definition of “sexual assault” (as well as “sexual harassment” and “other sex-related offenses”), the new policy provides a training program for all Department of Defense personnel for dealing with sexual assault.

In addition, the policy includes revised guidelines for how to investigate complaints, how to treat and care for victims and how to report sexual assaults. A notable feature of the revised policy is its emphasis on increased victim support. The Pentagon has told the press that it plans to designate a sexual assault response coordinator at every U.S. military installation in the world, including all military branches, service academies and other academic institutions.

The policy was developed based on recommendations from the department’s Joint Task Force on Care for Victims of Sexual Assault. These changes come in the aftermath of a series of sexual assault reports in the Iraq war, the Air Force Academy and elsewhere in the military.

Other reasons to cheer:

–A simple urine test performed during pregnancy could someday predict which women are likely to develop dangerously high blood pressure called pre-eclampsia, says a study in Tuesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that kills hundreds of mothers-to-be each year in the United States and leads to 15 percent of all premature births. In the study, researchers found urine samples from women who eventually developed pre-eclampsia had extremely low levels of a protein called placental growth factor, which nurtures blood vessels that support the mother and fetus. While a screening test would not prevent the disorder, doctors could monitor at-risk women more closely.

— Despite traditional pressures discouraging them from political activity in Arab states, women won 51 seats in 26 localities in Palestinian elections on Dec. 23. These elections were viewed by many as a warm-up for Sunday’s Palestinian presidential election to replace Yasser Arafat.

For more information:

U.S. Department of Defense–
DoD Announces New Policy on Prevention and Response to Sexual Assault:

National Institutes of Health–
Substance in Urine Predicts Development of Preeclampsia:


The White House announced on Monday that President Bush intends to renominate 20 of his most controversial choices for the federal courts, including those who were blocked by Democratic filibusters. Among President Bush’s intended nominees are several who are ardently opposed to abortion rights, women’s rights, civil rights and environmental protections.

One nominee is William Pryor, who called the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history,” and “the day seven members of our High Court ripped the Constitution and ripped out the life of millions of unborn children.”

Another reason to jeer:

— In its recently issued guidelines for treatment of sexual assault survivors, the U.S. Department of Justice failed to include emergency contraception as an option for victims. Emergency contraception is a safe and effective FDA-approved method of preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex, according to the Family Planning Advocates of New York State, which joined more than 200 organizations in sending a letter to the department this week.