03.10.14

Senator Baldwin Supports Bipartisan Solutions to Address Military Sexual Assault

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today will vote to support a major bipartisan effort to address sexual assault in the military. The Victims Protection Act of 2014 reshapes how the military handles assaults in its ranks and provides important protections for victims and increasing prosecutions.
 
“The men and women in our armed forces serve with courage in defense of our freedom every single day,” Baldwin said, “I am proud to join bipartisan efforts in Congress to provide solutions to the ongoing crisis of sexual assault in the military. The system is broken and it’s long past time we fix it. Our service men and women deserve better and I am pleased that we are taking action.”
 
The Victims Protection Act of 2014, S. 1917, is legislation introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) that has bipartisan support. The legislation reshapes how the military handles assaults in its ranks and provides important protections for victims and increasing prosecutions. It does this by stripping military commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, requiring civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case, assigning victims their own independent legal counsel to protect their rights and fight for their interests, mandating dishonorable discharge for anyone convicted of sexual assault, criminalizing retaliation against victims who report a sexual assault, and eliminating the statute of limitations in rape and sexual assault cases.
 
Last week, Baldwin also supported the Military Justice Improvement Act, which fell short of the 60 votes necessary to move forward in the Senate. Baldwin joined 37 of her Senate colleagues as cosponsor of the bipartisan legislation. The Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013, S. 1752 is legislation introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that moves the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors, with the exception of crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going Absent Without Leave. The decision whether to prosecute 37 serious crimes uniquely military in nature, plus all crimes punishable by less than one year of confinement, would remain within the chain of command.
 
Baldwin is also a cosponsor of a number of other legislative actions on military sexual assault. She supports the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Act of 2013, a bipartisan measure to prevent sexual offenders from serving in the military, improve tracking and review of sexual assault claims in the military, and help ensure victims have access to the justice they deserve and the bipartisan. She also supports the Ruth Moore Act of 2013, which makes it easier for survivors of military sexual assault to get the veterans' disability benefits they need. In addition, Baldwin supported the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) signed by the President, which included more than 20 provisions to address the problem of sexual assault in the military.
 
According to a 2012 report released by the U.S. Department of Defense, an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in FY2012, a 37 percent increase from FY2011. The report also states that 50 percent of female victims stated they did not report the crime because they believed that nothing would be done with their report. Across the Services, 74 percent of females and 60 percent of males perceived one or more barriers to reporting sexual assault. In addition, 62 percent of victims who reported a sexual assault indicated they perceived some form of professional, social, and/or administrative retaliation.
 
A separate report released last summer by the Department of Defense showed that more than one in five female service members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military.