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May 16, 2013

Johanns Sponsors Bipartisan Bills Addressing Military Sexual Assault Cases

The Department of Defense estimates more than 26,000 incidents of sexual assault in 2012, yet only 238 convictions

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) today sponsored three bipartisan pieces of legislation to address cases of sexual assault.

“Our brave men and women who put on a uniform already take enough risks on the battlefield without having to worry about sexual assault,” Johanns said. “It’s up to Congress to enact any reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which outlines how these cases are handled. The bipartisan legislation I’m sponsoring helps our military better address these crimes to ensure harsh penalties for convicted offenders.”

A recent Department of Defense report estimates that there were approximately 26,000 cases of sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact within the military during fiscal year 2012 alone. That’s an average of 71 per day.

The Combatting Military Sexual Assault Act was introduced by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.).
• S. 871 would establish a Special Victims’ Counsel for each branch of service.  This individual would provide legal advice and assistance to sexual assault victims. The legislation also increases the responsibilities and authority of the DOD’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to strengthen oversight of development, implementation, and accountability policies for sexual assault prevention and response.

The Military Justice Improvement Act was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
• This legislation would give military prosecutors, who are not in the accused individual’s chain of command, the authority to determine if a case goes to a special or general court-martial.  It also establishes a 90 day deadline for military judges to call general and special-courts martial into session and prohibits commanders from overturning convictions.

The Coast Guard Sexual Trauma Response Oversight and Good Governance Act (STRONG Act), which will be introduced next week, is authored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).
• The STRONG Act, which passed in 2011, requires the military services to put in place protections for victims of sexual assault, including the right to legal assistance and the right for a victim to request a transfer away from the geographic location of his or her attacker.  This legislation would also apply these provisions to the Coast Guard. Currently, many STRONG ACT provisions do not apply to the Coast Guard because of its unique status as a component of Department of Homeland Security.

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