WASHINGTON, D.C. – In light of today’s Pentagon report stating a disturbing rise in sexual assault in the military, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA-46), members of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation providing protections for survivors of military sexual violence. The bill strengthens existing military whistleblower protection laws to clarify that victims of sexual crimes are protected from punishment for reporting sexual assault.
According to the Department of Defense, there were an estimated 19,000 victims of sexual violence in the military during fiscal year 2011. However, only 2,723 servicemembers filed a report of sexual assault. The Department of Defense also found that victims often don’t come forward because they worry about retaliation or fear that reporting a fellow servicemember may negatively impact their career.
“It is absolutely inexcusable that military sexual violence has reached epidemic levels. The prevalence of sexual assault inside the military is a stain on its record of being the greatest force for good the world has ever known. Servicemembers who become victims of sexual violence deserve nothing less than the assurance and peace of mind that they can safely report these crimes, without fear of reprisal from within their ranks,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “Military sexual assault is not just a crime, but also impacts morale and military readiness. I am glad to partner with Congresswoman Sanchez on this important bipartisan legislation to encourage safe reporting and eradicate future occurrences of sexual violence in the Armed Forces.”
“I’m deeply concerned, though not surprised, to see this year’s report indicating that the number of sexual assaults in the military has risen. Most disturbingly, 62% of the women who experienced and reported sexual assault to DoD authorities felt some form of social, administrative or professional retaliation,” said Congresswoman Sanchez. “This reflects a terrible problem of culture and climate in our ranks, one that requires action – not just rhetoric – from Congress and the military. As the senior female on the Armed Services Committee and the founder and co-chair of the Women in the Military Caucus, I have made it my priority in my time in Congress to make servicewomen who are the victims of sexual assault feel safe and protected and to help them be heard. I’m proud to introduce this bill alongside Rep. Walorski and I hope it works to improve the quality of DoD’s response to sexual assault and to increase trust in the military justice process.”