Sen. Patty Murray today is introducing a bill to curtail military sexual assault by offering more support to victims and explicitly prohibiting certain unethical behavior, such as having sex with new recruits.
Murray, a Washington Democrat, is submitting the bill with New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. They’re timing the release of the bill with a Defense Department report coming out today detailing a rise in military sexual assaults in 2012.
An early copy of the Defense Department report obtained by USA Today shows that 26,000 service members were victims of sexual assault last year, up from 19,300 in 2011.
The data is being released as lawmakers and senior military officers grapple with several high profile and troubling episodes of sexual assault in addition to the trends spotlighted by the 2012 documentary, The Invisible War.
This week, the Air Force’s chief of sexual assault prevention was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski allegedly approached a woman in a parking lot and grabbed her breasts and buttocks, according to Stars and Stripes.
Top Defense Department officials also are on the hot seat to answer for two Air Force generals who have granted clemency to officers convicted of sex assaults in the past year, according to The Washington Post.
“Not only are we subjecting our men and women to this disgusting epidemic, but we’re also failing to provide the victims with any meaningful support system once they have fallen victim to these attacks,” Murray said in a written statement announcing the bill. “And while I applaud recent efforts by the Department of Defense to turn the tide on this mounting crisis, we must do more to root out the culture that fosters this behavior and provide substantive assistance to those who face these tragedies alone.”
The Murray and Ayotte bill aims to:
- Designate a special military lawyer for victims of sexual assault.
- Enhance the authority of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.
- Require sex assault cases to move to different courts outside the defendant’s or victim’s chain of command if there is a conflict of interest.
- Prohibit sexual contact between basic training instructors and trainees for at least days of the course’s completion.
- Provide sexual assault response coordinators for Reserve and National Guard units.
Sex assault has been an open topic at Joint Base Lewis-McChord recently. The top command of I Corps required units to show The Invisible War to troops. Some units brought in victims of military sexual assault for discussions with soldiers. Here’s a video showing one of the training sessions.