Washington, DC — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar received an award for her leadership in the fight to prevent sexual assault in the military at a national summit hosted by the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). Last month Klobuchar 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. This bill builds on Klobuchar’s previous legislation—now law—to improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims and ensure long-term preservation of victims’ records, which can help veterans seek medical and disability assistance.
“No brave American in uniform out on the front lines serving our country who is the victim of sexual assault should have to fight to receive care or pursue justice,”said Klobuchar. “This legislation makes critical reforms that will help prevent sexual assault in the military and I will continue to work to fight this crime and ensure victims have the support they need and 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.
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’s legislation with Senator Murkowski, the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013, would revise the National Defense Authorization Act 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.
Last year, Klobuchar introduced the bipartisan Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2012, and three of the bill’s provisions were included in the National Defense Authorization Act (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 addition to the Service Women’s Action Network, Klobuchar’s efforts to support military sexual assault victims have been supported by the American Legion, AMVETS, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and the Wounded Warrior Project.