The Army recently released a directive expanding important legal services to certain victims of military sexual assault, but the directive fails to cover Guard members who become victims of sexual assault outside of their drill weekend or military duty
Bipartisan bill would ensure survivors of sexual assault receive support services if there is any connection between the crime and their service
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have introduced a bipartisan bill to ensure the National Guard and Reserve’s ability to assist victims of sexual assault. The Army recently released a directive expanding important legal services to certain victims of military sexual assault, but the directive fails to cover Guard members who become victims of sexual assault outside of their drill weekend or military duty. The National Guard and Reserve Access to Counsel Act would ensure survivors of sexual assault receive support services if there is any connection between the crime and their service. The bill would require the relevant service secretary to provide Special Victims Counsel to the member regardless of when the assault occurred. Representative John Kline has introduced similar legislation in the House.
“Our servicemembers put their lives on the line to support and protect our country, and we must support and protect them in return,” Klobuchar said. “This bill would ensure that any servicemembers who become victims of sexual assault that is at all connected to their service receive the support they need and deserve.”
“Our Guard members have been integral in defending our nation in every conflict,” Ayotte said. “This bill would ensure that our Guard and Reserve members receive the same protections as all our men and women in uniform if they unfortunately are victims of sexual assault.”
After the Army released their directive, Klobuchar joined with Representative John Kline in June to lead Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation in calling on the U.S. Army to ensure that the Minnesota National Guard can fully assist victims of sexual assault regardless of when the assault occurred. In a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Minnesota’s congressional delegation raised concerns that the lack of clarity around the new directive could undermine the Minnesota National Guard’s ability to effectively provide support services to survivors of sexual assaults.
Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight against sexual assault in the military. In May, Klobuchar pressed the Department of Defense to implement reforms to help fight sexual assault in the military. The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act included Klobuchar-authored provisions to help crack down on sexual assault in the military, including measures to require the automatic retention of sexual assault records, strengthen whistleblower protections, and help stop repeat offenders.
Last year, Senator Ayotte and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would provide victims of sexual assault in all military branches with a Special Victims' Counsel (SVC), a trained military lawyer to assist the victim throughout the legal process. The bill also included provisions authored by Senators Ayotte and Murray that enhance responsibilities for the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and provide Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to members of the National Guard and Reserve.
Senator Ayotte, a former prosecutor who serves on the Armed Services Committee, has worked across party lines to strengthen and augment historic legislation she worked on that became law last year that puts in place a framework to better protect and empower victims of sexual assault, boost prosecutions of sexual predators, and hold military commanders accountable. Additionally, earlier this year, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation authored by Ayotte and Senator McCaskill (D-MO) to bolster the important reforms passed last year and strengthen support for victims.