Provisions would require automatic retention of sexual assault records, strengthen whistleblower protections and help stop repeat offenders

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar’s  provisions to the National Defense Authorization Act to help fight sexual assault in the military passed the Senate and will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law. Klobuchar’s provisions would require automatic retention of sexual assault records, strengthen whistleblower protections and help stop repeat offenders.

“Our men and women in the military put their lives on the line fighting for our country; we shouldn’t be asking them to fight against sexual assault as well,” Klobuchar said. “These provisions take some critical steps to help crack down on sexual assault and provide support to victims, and I will continue to work to ensure these crimes are eliminated from the ranks.”

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 includes the following Klobuchar provisions to address sexual assault in the military:

  • The bipartisan provision Klobuchar authored with Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska that would require automatic retention of both restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assault for 50 years. Klobuchar has worked hard over the years to ensure reports are made available to victims, and this legislation would be a decisive step in that effort. Current law only requires retention of restricted reports—when a servicemember chooses not to take legal action–at the request of the affected servicemember. Automatic retention of records will make it easier for servicemen and women who have been sexually assaulted to get VA benefits for assault-related ailments or to seek justice in the future.
  • Legislation Klobuchar introduced with Senator McCaskill of Missouri to add sexual assault and related charges to the list of protected communications that can be investigated by the DOD Inspector General. This expanded whistleblower protection will help ensure that service members are able to report sexual assault crimes without facing retaliation from superiors or peers that re-victimizes them and threatens their careers. Sixty-two percent of victims of military sexual assault reported that they faced some kind of retaliation, and it is the biggest deterrent to victims reporting what happened to them.
  • Klobuchar’s provision requiring that the disposition of substantiated sexual-related offenses be noted in personnel records, helping to ensure that commanders are aware of potential repeat offenders.
  • A provision similar to Klobuchar’s legislation—the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act—which expresses the sense of the Senate that charges of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy, or attempts to commit these offenses should be disposed of by court-martial rather than by non-judicial punishment or administrative action.

In 2012, the Department of Defense received 3,374 reports of sexual assault in the military. But by the DOD’s own estimates, 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact actually took place during that period. That means that only 12.9%, a small fraction, of all incidents were actually reported. And even of the 3,374 reported offenses in 2012, only 880 faced command action for sex crimes. Of those 880, 594 faced courts-martial and 302 of those courts-martial resulted in convictions.