Senator Lisa Murkowski today announced her continued support to combat military sexual assault through every angle, co-sponsoring S. 1092, legislation aimed at increasing protections for victims, particularly from possible retaliation after reporting a violation. An outspoken advocate for the needed culture change within the military, Murkowski believes that the current rates of military sexual assault are a fraction of the actual occurrences -- with victims frequently reluctant to report an attack due to concerns of negative impacts on their advancement through the ranks.
"Sexual assault in our military continues to rise at an alarming rate; this legislation is just one of the ways we ensure victims in our armed services are given a clear path to justice without facing fear of jeopardizing their career or future," said Senator Murkowski. "The fact of the matter is these sexual assaults are drastically underreported, at a rate of less than 13 percent of what's being estimated. We owe it to our military and our national identity to begin addressing these severe problems even if that means one fix at a time."
According to the Department of Defense, of the estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault that occurred in 2012, only 3,372 cases were reported. The legislation introduced by Senators Klobachar (D-MN) and McCaskill (D-MO) would work to combat the alarming rates of sexual assaults underreported in the military each year. The bill would add sexual assault and other sexual misconduct offenses to the list of violations for which communications are protected and retaliatory action is prohibited and subject to investigation by the DOD Inspector General (IG).
The legislation would:
Require an investigation by the IG when there are allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken in response to reporting a sexual assault.
Expands the IG investigations to reports of rape, sexual assault, or other sexual misconduct.
Today's co-sponsorship announcement comes a day after Murkowski spoke to the National Network to End Domestic Violence Congressional Breakfast, where members of Congress from both parties spoke to the many important issues surrounding domestic violence. Murkowski addressed the topic of domestic violence and how the contributing factors leading to it also overlap with the crisis of sexual assault within the military and a recent hearing in the Senate Armed Services Committee on the same issue.
Senator Murkowski's Address to the National Network to End Domestic Violence Congressional Breakfast
"This national policy of zero tolerance is not fully understood across our government, because what we are seeing is a level of domestic violence within the military ranks that is simply not acceptable. There has been, call it a culture, call it acceptance, call it what you will -- it is wrong and it will not be tolerated.
"I've signed up for four different pieces of legislation aimed at addressing the causes of military sexual trauma. I've signed onto Senator Gillibrand's bill, which is the one that guys with stars on their shoulders don't like. Because what it does is it moves those within the chain of command out of the process.
"They will tell you that is too radical and too dramatic of a step. I would suggest to you that the failure to address this year after year after year in branch after branch of the services -- that is what is unacceptable."