Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall delivered the following statement after joining the Senate in voting unanimously to advance the Victims Protection Act of 2014, a bill to improve sexual assault prevention measures and response systems within the armed forces. The final vote is expected next week. Senator Udall also voted for a stronger measure, the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), which would have placed authority for pursuing sexual assault cases with military prosecutors rather than unit commanders. The Gillibrand measure did not receive the required 60 votes and therefore it failed, 55-45, even though it was supported by a majority of senators.
"Our armed forces are the finest in the world; they deserve our pride and support, and the vast majority of the members of our military conduct themselves with honor and dignity. But as a former prosecutor, I believe reforms to the way the military handles sexual assault crimes are long past due. This measure is a step in the right direction. Individuals who commit the horrible acts of rape and sexual assault should be held accountable, and victims should be able to find protection from their predators. These crimes are traumatizing for victims and their families, and have a corrosive impact on the morale of our armed services. While I am disappointed that stronger legislation I supported with Senator Gillibrand failed to advance, this bill promotes justice for survivors of sexual assault, and will help prevent and hold accountable the perpetrators of these terrible crimes."