Congressman Scott Rigell (VA-2) today cosponsored two bills aimed at reducing sexual assault in the military and giving victims the ability to come forward without fear of reprisal. The Be Safe Act, H.R. 1876, and what's known as the Whistleblower Protection Bill, H.R. 1864, would help address what Rigell calls an "unacceptable and inexcusable' recent Pentagon survey finding: an estimated 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year.
"The only threat our men and women in uniform should ever face is from an enemy combatant," said Rigell, whose district is home to more active duty and retired military than any other district in the country. "We have to do whatever we can to reduce, and eventually eliminate, this deeply troubling trend."
The Be Safe Act, H.R. 1876, strips a Flag or General Officer's authority to change or dismiss a court-martial conviction in major cases and requires that a service member found guilty of an offense of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a sentence that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal or dishonorable discharge.
H.R. 1864, known as the Whistleblower Protection Bill, strengthens existing protections by specifically including reports of sexual assault as a form of communication under whistleblower protections. This change ensures victims cannot face reprisal for reporting acts of sexual assault. A protected communication is any lawful communication to a Member of Congress or an Inspector General, as well as any communication made to a person or organization designated to receive such communications.