U.S. Rep. Ron Barber's bipartisan legislation to extend whistleblower protections to victims of military sexual assault was approved today by the full House.
"Last year, nearly 1 out of every 16 active duty women reported having been the victim of sexual assault," Barber said today. "But the actual number of victims is far higher. This is a deplorable situation that will not be tolerated. By fully protecting those who report such assaults, predators can more quickly be identified and prosecuted, encouraging more victims to come forward."
The House today unanimously passed legislation by a vote of 423-to-0 that specifically identifies reports of sexual assault as a form of communication under whistleblower protections. It requires an Inspector General investigation into allegations of retaliatory personnel actions taken against victims who have reported alleged instances of rape, sexual assault or other forms of sexual misconduct in the military.
According to a recent Pentagon report, there were an estimated 26,000 victims of sexual violence in the military during fiscal year 2012 -- a 37 percent increase from the previous year.
However, the Department of Defense found many victims do not come forward due to fear or anticipated retaliation that may affect their careers. Extending whistleblower protections would address this issue and provide much-needed protections for military sexual assault victims, establishing safeguards to encourage reporting and eliminate future incidents.
The House legislation now goes to the Senate.