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McCaskill: New Sexual Assault Numbers a First Sign of Progress, Show That System Including Commanders, Combined With Historic Reforms, Will Work for Victims

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NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL

McCaskill: New Sexual Assault Numbers a First Sign of Progress, Show That System Including Commanders, Combined With Historic Reforms, Will Work for Victims

New figures show a significant increase in number of victims coming forward to report crimes, with new protections in place and historic reforms on the way, and without stripping commanders of all responsibilities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes, today released the following statement after the Pentagon released statistics on military sexual assault that showed a 46 percent increase in reporting during the first three quarters of this year:

“These numbers, while a comfort to no one, represent progress—and hopefully show that with new protections in place, and historic reforms on the way, victims will have the confidence to come forward, without us removing all accountability from commanders. We know that the majority of military sexual assault survivors choose not to report their assaults—but this data suggests that the number of brave men and women choosing to pursue justiceis increasing. It also shows that a system that includes a role for commanders, and holds them accountable with historic reforms, will work for victims. However, real progress will require a sustained effort, and today’s data in no way detracts from the urgency I feel in passing into law those reforms.”

McCaskill has relentlessly fought to combat sexual assaults in the military. Earlier this year, the Armed Services Committee gave approval to a series of aggressive, historic reforms addressing sexual assault, including bipartisan, bicameral provisions by McCaskill that will significantly boost accountability for perpetrators and protections for survivors.

McCaskill’s reforms include provisions to strip commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, install civilian review over decisions to not prosecute cases, mandate dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault, make it a crime to retaliate against victims who report a sexual assault, provide a Special Victims Counsel to give independent legal advice to servicemembers who report a sexual assault, and eliminate the statute of limitations in these cases.

Supporters of an alternative proposal have asserted that the current military justice system is inherently biased against victims and is unworkable if military commanders retain the ability to launch court-martial proceedings. However, in the past year, military leaders have aggressively pursued accountability for military commanders who fail to address sexual harassment and assault in their units, and have worked to establish an environment that encourages reporting, protects victims, and ensures those accused of wrongdoing are held accountable.

McCaskill pointed to the new statistics of drastically increased reporting as a strong indicator that retaining a limited role for commanders, while instituting historic, aggressive reforms, is the key for curbing sexual assaults.

Read more about McCaskill's fight to curb sexual assaults in the military at www.McCaskill.senate.gov/MilitaryJustice.

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