Army Secretary orders changes to policy after Minnesota soldier's sexual assault, suicide

December 13, 2018 10:21 PM

The Secretary of the U.S. Army has directed staff to update policies regarding the treatment of victims of sexual assault who request to be transferred off-base, according to a letter sent to members of Congress from Minnesota.

The letter comes months after a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation into the death of Pvt. Nicole Burnham, a solider from Andover, who died by suicide after being sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied.

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RELATED: Failing Private Burnham: An investigation into a Minnesota soldier's assault, death

Army documents obtained by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS show it took 82 days to transfer Pvt. Burnham from her base in South Korea after she reported the sexual assault.

During that time, the documents reveal the 21-year-old suffered from harassment by her attacker and from cyberbullying by fellow soldiers and their spouses.

In the letter, which was sent to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Secretary Mark Esper admitted that "Army policy does not specify a timeline for completion" when a victim of sexual assault requests an expedited victim transfer, or EVT.

"Accordingly, I've directed the Army staff both to update Army policies to mirror the timelines in (Department of Defense policy) and to review the EVT process to ensure there are no procedural gaps that need to be addressed," Esper wrote in part.

RELATED: Klobuchar, Emmer push Army to take action after Minnesota soldier's sexual assault, suicide

Department of Defense policy, according to Esper's letter, states an EVT "should occur within 30 days," and Esper said the Army's policies will now also reflect that timeline.

"To me, 30 days seems far too long," said Stacey Burnham, Nicole's mother. "I cannot imagine being a victim, having your EVT approved but knowing you may still be there for another 30 days."

Burnham has called for more significant changes in the wake of her daughter's death, suggesting the timeline should be condensed even further.

She said EVTs should occur within 10 days after being approved.

"It is too late for our daughter, but I know there are I'm sure several other EVTs just sitting, waiting for their transfer to happen," Burnham said.

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Kirsten Swanson

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