Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH), Niki Tsongas (D-MA) have joined together to introduce the U.S. Coast Guard STRONG Act to combat sexual assault in our nation's Coast Guard (USCG). The bicameral, bipartisan legislation would ensure victims of sexual assault in the USCG are granted an expedited consideration and determination of a request for transfer away from the geographic location of their alleged assailant.
In 2011, Congress passed and the president signed into law important legislation, the STRONG Act that requires the military services to put in place protections for victims of sexual assault, including the right to legal assistance and the right for a victim to request a transfer away from the geographic location of his or her attacker and to have that transfer request considered on an expedited basis. This expedited request for transfer provision, in particular, puts power back in the victim's hands after it has been brutally taken away. While the USCG has committed to implementing portions of the STRONG Act, it is important that federal law be updated to clarify that the protections provided by the legislation are extended to victims of sexual assault in the USCG.
"We must ensure that no woman or man who joins the military is denied the justice and the protections available to civilians. We must also guarantee support for victims of sexual assault," said Senator Collins (R-ME), a senior member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. "I appreciate the Coast Guard leadership's commitment implementing provisions included in the STRONG Act. Our bill would make it clear that members of the Coast Guard can request expedited consideration to be transferred far away from the location of their assailant."
"We've seen cases where survivors of sexual assault have remained in close proximity to their alleged or convicted attackers--a situation so traumatizing and inappropriate it angers me to think about," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former county prosecutor. "This bill ensures that the men and women of the United States Coast Guard will have the same options as their brothers and sisters in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and that survivors receive the legal resources they need to pursue justice."
"The United States Coast Guard has not been immune to the rampant sexual assault and associated abuses of power that plague our armed services. With this bill, sexual assault survivors from the Coast Guard will be afforded the same protections as other servicemembers, which were recently passed into law. The expedited request for a base transfer puts power back into the hands of those who have had it brutally ripped away by these heinous crimes. This is a vital step toward creating an environment that takes victims out of harm's way, encourages them to report these crimes and helps bring those responsible to justice," said Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus.
"The Coast Guard is a unique part of our nation's defense structure, but must come into line under the law guaranteeing rights for the men and women in our other uniformed services. The expedited base transfer ensures that a victim won't have to serve with their attacker. Furthermore, providing legal assistance ensures they will be fully informed of the path to justice and that they appropriately represented throughout the process," said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), Co-Chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus.