Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar highlighted the need for quick action to combat sexual assault in the military in a meeting at the White House with Senior Advisor to the President, Valerie Jarrett, Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Tina Tchen, and other Senate and House members who are involved in legislation to fight military sexual assault. Klobuchar recently introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to crack down on sexual assault in the military and require automatic retention of sexual assault records so victims can pursue justice. The meeting comes on the heels of a report released by the Department of Defense (DoD) earlier this week revealing an increase in sexual assault in the military.

“As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to have strong policies in place to combat sexual assault and I've worked hard to pass legislation to fight sexual assault in the military,” said Klobuchar.“While we have made some progress in establishing new policies to address sexual assault in the ranks, the recent report underscores the critical need for continued action to prevent this crime and this meeting is one positive step forward for advancing solutions.”

Klobuchar recently introduced bipartisan to crack down on sexual assault in the military. The Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013, introduced with Senator Murkowski, would revise the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the Secretary of Defense to retain restricted reports of sexual assault for at least 50 years. This removes the language that would have required that the report be retained only at the request of the filing service member, allowing for automatic retention of the reports. The bill also would establish preferred policy regarding the disposition of sexual assault cases through courts martial, and prohibit service in the Armed Forces by individuals previously convicted of a sexual offense. Earlier this year, Klobuchar received an award from the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) for her efforts to support military sexual assault victims. 

Last year, Klobuchar introduced the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2012, and three of the bill’s provisions were included in the NDAA reauthorization. The legislation introduced this year contains the provisions of the bill that were not included in the NDAA. In 2011, Klobuchar also passed bipartisan legislation—the Support for Survivors Act—to help ensure that survivors of sexual assault in the military have long-term access to their records and the support and care they deserve.

In recent years there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. The Fiscal Year 2012 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military report released earlier this week shows that the number of sexual assaults reported by members of the military rose from 3,192 to 3,374 in 2012, and the department estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were assaulted, up from 19,300 estimated in 2010. It also reveals a 1.7% increase in active duty servicewomen experiencing unwanted sexual contact and a 6% increase in reported sexual assaults since 2010. Earlier this week, Klobuchar met with Major General Gary Patton, the Director of DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) to discuss the report and initiatives to combat sexual assault in the military.

Research has shown that sexual trauma not only hurts the victims, but can also take a toll on their fellow service members by severely undermining unit cohesion, morale, and overall force effectiveness.