Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today made the following statement after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the Defense Department is recommending legislation that would help support victims of sexual assault in the military. The proposed changes would amend “convening authority” provisions in the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) law that allow senior officers to change the findings of a court-martial for serious offenses like sexual assault and would require convening authorities to explain in writing their changes to court-martial sentences.
“No brave American in uniform out on the front lines serving our country who is the victim ofsexual assault should have tofight topursue justice,” Klobuchar said.“Secretary Hagel’s action today is an important first step, but there is more to be done to build a more fair and transparent military judicial system. I will continue to work to ensure that victims get the support they need and deserve.”
Last month Klobuchar introduced bipartisan legislation to help fight sexual assault in the military. The Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013 would prevent sexual offenders from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims can get the justice they deserve.
In recent years there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. According to the Department of Defense, there were 3,192 official reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2011. Because most incidents are not reported to a military authority, the Pentagon estimates this number represents only 13 to 14 percent of total assaults – making the total estimated number of sexual assaults in the military over 19,000 in 2011. A recent study found that 53% of homeless female veterans had experienced sexual trauma while 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.