06.15.15

Peters Cosponsors Amendment to Combat Military Sexual Assault

Bipartisan Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act Would Improve Accountability in Military Justice System

 

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced he is cosponsoring a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to combat sexual assault in the military by increasing trust in the military justice system and decreasing the fear of reporting these crimes. The Military Justice Improvement Act would move the decision about whether to prosecute serious crimes, including sexual assault, from the chain of military command to independent and trained military prosecutors. A recent Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) report by the Department of Defense showed that only 25 percent of service men and women who had been sexually assaulted reported the incident.

“It is extremely troubling that any of our brave men and women in uniform have to worry about their personal safety while serving our nation, but it is even more disturbing that so many sexual assault victims in the military choose not to report these crimes,” said Senator Peters. “I’m proud to cosponsor this bipartisan amendment that will instill greater confidence in the military justice system and help enforce a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault in the military.” 

A RAND Corp. study of sexual assault, harassment, and gender discrimination in the military showed that, as of early fall 2014, an estimated 20,300 active duty service members experienced a sexual assault in the past year. Of those, 52 percent of active duty women perceived professional or social retaliation after reporting a sexual assault. The SAPRO report indicated the Department of Defense only received 6,131 reports of sexual assault in 2014.

Use of restrictive reporting of sexual assault has also increased 13 percent in the past year, indicating servicemembers do not feel safe to file a report seeking justice with their name attached to it. A restricted report allows a victim to maintain confidentiality but does not trigger an official investigation. Additionally, a restricted report does not allow a victim to receive a military protective order, apply for expedited transfer, prevent contact with the alleged assailant, protect evidence at the crime scene, or punish the assailant. Restricted reports also cannot help to get predators out of the military where they do not belong.

The Military Justice Improvement Act has been endorsed by a broad range of groups, including the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Protect Our Defenders, and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. 

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