U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Susan Collins (Maine) today as an original co-sponsor to the "Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments" (BE SAFE) Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at combatting sexual assaults in the military by better holding perpetrators accountable and protecting victims.
"Sexual assault in the military is simply intolerable, and I'm proud to co-sponsor this important legislation, which will help ensure that critical reforms are made in America's Armed Forces," said Blunt, who is one of three U.S. Senators to serve on both the defense appropriations and authorizing committees.
The bipartisan, bicameral bill contains reforms to better address sexual assault prosecutions and aid survivors including provisions that:
* Remove the convening authority's ability to change or dismiss an adjudged court-martial conviction for any charge or specification except for a charge or specification for a minor offense.
* Require a convening authority to provide written justification for any modifications made to a sentence, and require that they receive input from the victim.
* Require that a person found guilty of an offense of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a punishment that includes, at a minimum, a dismissal or dishonorable discharge.
* Eliminate the five-year statute of limitations on Trial by Courts-Martial for sexual assault and sexual assault of a child.
"The problems the U.S. military have had dealing with this issue--whether it's aggressively prosecuting perpetrators or effectively protecting survivors--are well chronicled and have gone on far too long," said McCaskill, a former county prosecutor and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It's time for the reforms contained in this bill, and I'm going to work with my colleagues in both chambers and in both parties to ensure that they're enacted."
"The Department of Defense has a no-tolerance policy towards sexual assault, but the culture does not match that policy," said Collins, a senior member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. "Individuals who commit acts of rape or sexual assault have no place in the United States Armed Forces, an institution that depends upon the high standards, ethics, and character of its service members. This is an unacceptable situation and we must work together to address it."
The BE SAFE Act was also introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Mike Turner (Ohio) and Niki Tsongas (Mass.).