Joyce, Garcia Introduce Safeguarding America’s Youth from Exploitation (SAYFE) Act for JROTC Sexual Abuse Prevention

Apr 25, 2023

WASHINGTON D.C. – U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) and Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) recently introduced the Shielding America’s Youth from Exploitation (SAYFE) Act to ensure prevention and protection methods are in place for young students in Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corp (JROTC) programs across the country. 

The JROTC program offers high school students’ exposure to military careers and culture. Programming is often taught by military veterans. However, the Department of Defense (DOD) recently reported 58 cases of sexual abuse in JROTC since 2017, with 33 resulting in criminal charges against program instructors.

According to the Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute, 95% of sexual abuse is preventable through education. The SAYFE Act will require the DOD to create annual educational training for JROTC cadets about appropriate and inappropriate relationships between cadets and instructors in an effort to prevent sexual abuse and assault. The bill also requires that the training include resources for cadets if they see or experience something inappropriate.

“As a former prosecutor and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence, I have made combating sexual violence one of my top priorities in Congress,” said Congressman Joyce. “By providing proper resources and education in JROTC programs, the SAYFE Act will help protect students from sexual abuse, something no child should ever have to endure. Together, we will make communities in Ohio and across the country safer for our kids.”

“It is our paramount obligation to protect our young students from sexual assault and abuse. Our goal is to provide the safeguards and awareness for cadets to recognize when instructors, teachers, and others intend to abuse the dynamics of their relationships and exploit youth for their benefit,” said Congresswoman Garcia. “The SAYFE Act is a step toward preventing abuse and empowering our future leaders to avoid and report on inappropriate actions. 

Jessica Schidlow, Legal Director Child USA, states, “Creating a safe and supportive environment for these cadets requires a multi-faceted approach that prioritizes prevention and education. By teaching cadets how to identify and report sexual abuse, exploitation, and boundary violations, we increase the likelihood that current and would-be perpetrators will be identified and stopped, preventing future harm to children.”

“Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) fully supports Representatives Garcia and Joyce in their efforts to ensure that JROTC cadets, who may become members of our military, understand how to recognize the signs that could indicate they or others are in an unsafe environment,” said Deshauna Barber, President and CEO of SWAN. “It’s imperative that young people are fully equipped with the knowledge, support, and tools they need to report misconduct and to receive care if they experience abuse. All leaders and instructors of JROTC must be held accountable for crimes committed against vulnerable minors and, if found guilty, should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“JROTC is the first point where many aspiring officers and servicemembers learn the culture of the military,” states National Children’s Alliance (NCA) CEO Teresa Huizar. “NCA is pleased to support the SAYFE Act as a first step in preventing abuse in JROTC. Abuse prevention education training to JROTC cadets will help future leaders recognize and report abuse, and therefore protect children, throughout their careers.”

The bill is endorsed by The Monique Burr Foundation, Rights4Girls, The National Center on Sexual Exploitation, ECPAT-USA, Child USA, National Children’s Alliance, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), End Rape On Campus (EROC), Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA), Chief Warrant & Warrant Officers Association of the US Coast Guard, and Sea Service Family Foundation.

Congressman Joyce and Congresswoman Garcia are joined by original cosponsors Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick, Donald Norcross, Seth Moulton, Shontel Brown, Chrissy Houlahan, Jen Kiggans, and Veronica Escobar. 

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