U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) today introduced legislation to help fight sexual assault in the military. The Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013 would prevent sexual offenders from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims can get the justice they deserve. The bill furthers bipartisan legislation Klobuchar introduced last year.
"Our service members put their lives on the line while serving our country, and too many of them continue to fall victim to sexual assault each year. That is simply unacceptable," Klobuchar said."This legislation is important step forward in helping to prevent these terrible crimes from happening in the first place and ensure that victims receive the justice and support they deserve."
"Our men and women in uniform put their blood, sweat and tears into defending American ideals, freedoms and protections at home and abroad; they deserve the same robust defenses in return,"said Murkowski. "I am honored to join Senator Klobuchar as lead Republican on this bill to improve our troops' confidence, trust and morale through appropriate enforcement of sexual assault protections among the ranks."
In recent years there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. According to the Department of Defense, there were 3,192 official reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2011. Because most incidents are not reported to a military authority, the Pentagon estimates this number represents only 13 to 14 percent of total assaults -- making the total estimated number of sexual assaults in the military over 19,000 in 2011. A recent study found that 53% of homeless female veterans had experienced sexual trauma while in the military.
Research has shown that sexual trauma not only hurts the victims, but can also take a toll on their fellow service members by severely undermining unit cohesion, morale, and overall force effectiveness.
The legislation would:
· Prohibit service in the Armed Forces by individuals previously convicted of a sexual offense.
· Elevate the rank of officer authorized to dispose of sexual assault charges to ensure that appropriately senior officers handle the cases.
· Establish preferred policy regarding the disposition of sexual assault cases through courts martial.
· Revises the FY13 NDAA to require the Secretary of Defense to retain restricted reports of sexual assault for at least 50 years. This removes the language that would have required that the report be retained only at the request of the filing service member. Retention of these reports should be automatic.
Last year, Klobuchar introduced the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2012, and three of the bill's provisions were included in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) reauthorization. The legislation introduced this year contains the provisions of the bill that were not included in the NDAA. In 2011, Klobuchar also passed bipartisan legislation--the Support for Survivors Act--to help ensure that survivors of sexual assault in the military have long-term access to their records and the support and care they deserve.