Today, Jaime Herrera Beutler voted with her colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives to unanimously pass legislation that protects service members who blow the whistle on military sexual assault. Jaime is a cosponsor of the bill, H.R. 1864, that adds rape, sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct to the protected communications of service members with a Member of Congress or an Inspector General. The whistleblower protection ensures a victim's right to report these crimes to authorities without military interference.
In recent months, alarming information has come to light regarding the prevalence of sexual assault in the military. A recent Pentagon report revealed that military sexual assaults have increased by 37% over a two year period. However, fewer than one in six cases is reported to authorities. Studies have shown that service members who report rapes or sexual assaults face retaliation a majority of the time, necessitating the need for an improved reporting process.
In addition to today's bill, Jaime also supported several important military sexual assault protections that were included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which Jaime voted in favor of and passed the House on June 14th. In the NDAA, minimum sentencing guidelines would be established in the Uniform Code of Military Justice for sex related offenses. Currently, only murder and espionage carry minimum sentences. Service members would be able to apply for a permanent change of station or unit if they were a victim of rape or sexual assault. Lastly, commanders would be stripped of their authority to dismiss the findings of a court-martial or from reducing guilty findings to a less offense.
"For far too long, the epidemic of military sexual assaults has been ignored, and I won't let our federal government ignore it any longer," said Jaime. "I still believe that stronger action is needed, but I'm pleased to help this effort in Congress to provide more protections to the victims of these horrific acts and punish perpetrators more severely. These bills are an important first step."