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McCaskill: Spike in sexual assault reporting shows increasing confidence from victims

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NEWS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF U.S. SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL (KAN.)

Spike in Sexual Assault Reporting Shows Increasing Confidence from Victims

McCaskill: New Pentagon figures, ‘show concrete progress,’ but ‘fight is far from over’

Numbers show more victims coming forward as newly-enacted, historic reforms take root

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon today released new figures that show increasing confidence in the military justice system from victims of sexual assault, as more survivors come forward to report such crimes, while a host of historic reforms continues to be implemented across the military. Former sex crimes prosecutor and U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill released the following response:

“These numbers show concrete progress as our recent sweeping reforms continue to take root and more victims have the confidence in the system to come out of the shadows and report these crimes. We know that the majority of survivors, both military and civilian, choose not to report their assaults—but this data suggests that the number of brave men and women in uniform choosing to pursue justice is increasing. Ultimately, one sexual assault is still one too many, so while these numbers represent progress, our fight is far from over.”

The FY13 SAPRO Annual Report shows a 50 percent increase in reports received from the previous year—this after reporting increased by less than 6 percent from FY11-FY12. Numbers have not yet been updated on rates of unwanted sexual contact in the military. A survey is being fielded in 2014 to update past-year prevalence rates of unwanted sexual contact and sexual harassment among troops.

McCaskill helped shape and pass historic legislation to curb sexual assault in the military as part of last year’s annual defense bill. McCaskill has proposed additional legislation that would continue to build on these historic reforms—cosponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte and Deb Fischer—adding more provisions to protect and empower victims and increase reporting and prosecutions.

McCaskill recently heard directly from top Army officials about early successes of one newly-enacted reform in the military—the appointment of a Special Victims Counsel for victims who report an assault, to protect their rights and fight for their interests through the court-martial process. Of the major, historic reforms enacted last year to combat sexual assaults in the military, McCaskill has said that the Special Victims Counsel has made the military justice system one of “the most victim-friendly in the world.” Among those reforms:

  • Commanders have been stripped of the ability to overturn convictions, and will be held accountable under rigorous new standards.
  • Every victim who reports a sexual assault will get their own independent lawyer to protect their rights and fight for their interests - a reform that has no parallel in the civilian justice system.
  • Civilian review is now required if a commander decides against a prosecution in a sexual assault case when a prosecutor wants to go to trial.
  • Dishonorable discharge is now a required minimum sentence for anyone convicted of a sexual assault.
  • It is now a crime for any servicemember to retaliate against a victim who reports a sexual assault.
  • The pre-trial “Article 32” process, which came under scrutiny following a recent case at the Naval Academy, has been reformed to better protect victims.
  • And the statute of limitations in these cases has now been eliminated, a particularly important development in a sustained battle against sexual assaults.

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