The Pentagon estimates that as many as 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in the military last year. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced new legislation Thursday in response.
There have also been several high profile cases of a member of the military being convicted of sexual assault by a jury, only to have it overturned by a superior officer. McCaskill’s hopes her bill would change that.
“[We have to] Make sure that those people never again have the ability to overturn the work of a jury that has in fact made those decisions based on the evidence they heard,” she said.
McCaskill was joined by Republican and Democratic co-sponsors of the bill, and says it should receive bipartisan support.
“We give that notion a lot of talk around this building, but I have to tell you that I think it’s really important on this subject," McCaskill said. "We can’t send a mixed message to our military leadership.”
McCaskill says the Senate Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on the issue in June. The goal is to have the provisions included in the annual Defense Authorization Act.
Recently, there have been several other bills introduced on this subject. McCaskill says they "are all rowing in the same direction," but wants all options on the table for when the hearings occur.
Among other things, this bill would:
- Limit the ability of superior officers to lessen a sentence, and would require a written explanation for any changes.
- Allow the victim the opportunity to provide additional information before the commanding officer takes action on the sentence.
- Require, at minimum, a dismissal or dishonorable discharge.
- Eliminate the five-year statute of limitations on trial by courts-martial for sexual assault cases.
- Create a military legal counsel to give legal assistance services to victims of sex-related offenses.
Follow Chris McDaniel on Twitter: @csmcdaniel