Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar today said that a new report issued by the Department of Defense (DOD) revealing a significant increase in the number of instances of sexual assault in the military underscores the need to take swift action to prevent this crime. Today 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. The report comes on the heels of the arrest of Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, on charges of misdemeanor sexual battery. Klobuchar recently introduced bipartisan legislation to crack down on sexual assault in the military and require automatic retention of sexual assault reports so victims can pursue justice.

“As a former prosecutor, I know how important it is to have strong policies in place to combat sexual assault,” said Klobuchar.“While we have made some progress in establishing new laws and policies to address sexual assault in the ranks, today’s report underscores the critical need for continued action to prevent this horrific crime. I've worked hard to pass legislation to fight sexual assault in the military and I will continue to work to ensure offenders are prosecuted and make sure victims have the support they need and 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 today 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.

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.

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 (R-AK), 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.