Senators Lisa Murkowski and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have announced they are lead co-sponsors of bipartisan 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.
"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.
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.
Just last week, Senator Murkowski announced her co-sponsorship of the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 to help women veterans receive disability benefits for PTSD and depression resulting from sexual assault or harassment during their service.