Sexual Assault

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U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, says a new government study shows changes are needed in the way federal agencies track and report cases of sexual assault.

The report by the Government Accountability Office, released last week, found that four separate federal agencies – the departments of Education, Defense, Justice and Health and Human Services – keep track of data on sexual violence.

Those departments have at least 10 programs to collect the information, and they use 23 different terms to describe sexual violence, the GAO found.

Courtesy Avarty Photos

In a show of support for survivors of sexual assault and harassment, members of the St. Louis music scene will meet tonight to speak out against rape culture.

The term "rape culture" defines an environment where sexual violence is normalized, sexual assault is trivialized, and survivors are blamed. The discussion in St. Louis takes place during a time of increasing awareness of sexual assaults at concerts.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

For those old enough to remember the classic Schoolhouse Rock lesson on how a bill becomes a law, advancing legislation on Capitol Hill might seem relatively simple. What’s missing from that animated civics lesson is the hardball reality of Washington, where lawmakers not only work to advance their own bills, but also try to kill opposing measures that could undermine their legislative objectives.

Washington University

Updated 6:59 p.m., Sept. 21, with McCaskill comment: New research about sexual assault on college campuses shows Washington University in somewhat better shape than its peer institutions, but officials at the school admit they still have a lot more work to do to prevent problems for students.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Updated 1:22 p.m., Sept. 16 with audio from "St. Louis on the Air" - R. Bowen Loftin found that a lot of things were the same when he moved from the top job at Texas A&M to become chancellor of the University of Missouri-Columbia last year, but he did have to make one big change.

Instead of greeting his Aggie crowd with a hearty “Howdy!” he learned to get a big response at Mizzou with three simple letters: “M-I-Z”.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she learned a lot from her unsuccessful run for governor in 2004.
Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

More than 400 people a day call the national sexual assault hotline, three quarters of whom are college age or younger.

The YWCA has been involved in social justice issues for about 150 years, but many people still don’t know the organization’s mission, CEO Dara Richardson-Heron said.

“At the YWCA, we know that we cannot rest until racial, social and gender justice become a reality,” she told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she learned a lot from her unsuccessful run for governor in 2004.
Sen. McCaskill's Flickr page

The president and his administration are maintaining regular contact with Missouri officials ahead of an announcement by the grand jury investigating the shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told reporters this week that she spoke with President Barack Obama on Tuesday for what she described as a “full and complete discussion about a lot of issues surrounding Ferguson.”  She added that “I’m in contact with the Department of Justice every few days, encouraging them to continue their independent and complete investigation.”

Rebecca Smith/St. Louis Public Radio

As far as sexual assaults on a college campus are concerned, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill says no news is definitely not good news.

McCaskill, D-Mo., came to Harris-Stowe State University Monday as part of her continuing efforts to strengthen colleges’ responses to sexual assault – responses that she says too often are half-hearted or, at their worst, harmful to the victim.

Anna Saphphire via Flickr

There’s no “typical” abuser. There’s no “typical” victim. Domestic violence and sexual abuse happen everywhere.

“It doesn’t matter what you drive, what you do for a living, how many kids you have, what neighborhood you live in, we receive calls from every single ZIP code in the entire St. Louis metropolitan area,” said Susan Kidder, executive director of Safe Connections. “Abuse is happening no matter where one lives.”

Jim Howard | St. Louis Public Radio

A bipartisan group of senators -- including Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. -- and several victims of sexual violence presented at a press conference on Wednesday their arguments for legislation they say is long overdue and necessary to push colleges and universities into doing more to protect students and rid their campuses of sexual predators.

“This bill represents a rare thing in Washington — a truly collaborative, bipartisan effort—and that bodes well for our shared fight to turn the tide against sexual violence on our campuses,” McCaskill said.

DON"T USE TOO SMALL Claire McCaskill
Bill Greenblatt | UPI | File photo

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says a staff survey of 440 colleges and universities regarding campus sexual assaults has found that 41 percent of those responding “have not conducted a single investigation in five years” despite allegations by possible victims.

That finding is disturbing, McCaskill told reporters Wednesday because it means those colleges "are saying there are zero instances of sexual assault, which is hard to believe."

University of Missouri website

The University of Missouri system announced Wednesday it is hiring an outside consultant to review the school’s policies and materials concerning sexual assault and mental health services.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
File photo | Senate livestream

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill,D-Mo., arguably won her most significant victory since her 2012 re-election with Thursday’s Senate vote in favor of her approach to fighting sexual assaults in the military.

Most significantly, her approach would keep sexual assault cases within the military chain of command, although she would restrict commanders’ powers to overturn jury verdicts in sexual assault cases and bar commanders from substituting lesser charges.

(via Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill)

Updated 4:11 p.m, Mon., Jan. 27 with investigation by Columbia police.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, an alum of the University of Missouri and a former prosecutor, is calling on the university to investigate the alleged sexual assault of former Mizzou swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, who subsequently committed suicide.

(via Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill)

Updated at 1:43 p.m., Thurs., Dec. 12

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says she’ll go online within a week to sign up for health insurance on the federal exchange – but she won’t be taking the federal subsidy to help cover the cost.

“I’m not going to take the ‘employer contribution,’ “ McCaskill told Missouri reporters during a conference call Wednesday, referring to the federal government’s share of the health insurance premiums for all federal employees.  She added that her staff will take the subsidy, as most other federal employees will do.

This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Missouri’s two U.S. senators – Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt – disagree on many issues, such as the Affordable Care Act.  But the two are finding themselves on the same side on a number of military matters, including how best to address sexual assault.

(via Flickr/SenatorMcCaskill)

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that was designed to protect victims of sexual assault is facing competition from a fellow democrat.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is author of an amendment that takes sexual assault cases out of the military chain of command and into the hands of military lawyers. 

McCaskill said Gillibrand’s amendment would give military prosecutors too much influence over sexual assault cases, which could be bad for victims. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Within the next two weeks, Sen. Claire McCaskill expects a showdown on the military battle she’s been waging for months with fellow Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-NY.

At issue? How best to reform how the military handles sexual assaults.

(via Flickr/Cliff1066tm)

Missouri U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill introduced bipartisan legislation yesterday to protect sexual assault victims in the military from aggressive pretrial proceedings. 

The bill, whose cosponsors include Democrat Barbara Boxer of California and Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, amends Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which details pretrial investigations. 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – The final battle lines are forming in the Senate in the long-running dispute over how best to deter and prosecute sexual violence in the military -- with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill caught in the crossfire.

Even though the Missouri Democrat has been one of the Senate's leading advocates for years of a tougher approach to prosecuting sexual offenders, she is being targeted in a pressure campaign by groups that back a rival plan.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON -- After a high-profile disagreement between U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and another Democratic senator on how best to deter sexual violence in the military, the Senate Armed Services Committee backed reforms Wednesday that are closer to her proposal.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Pressed by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and others, the top Pentagon brass told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that deterring sexual assault is a major priority, but rejected the idea of removing such cases from the chain of command.

Senator McCaskill's Flickr

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.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – Missouri’s senators may not agree on many national issues, but U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s new bill that aims to deter sexual violence in the military picked up a GOP leadership co-sponsor on Thursday when U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt signed on.

The "Better Enforcement for Sexual Assault Free Environments" (BE SAFE) Act, announced earlier in the day by McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, is one of several bills in Congress that take different approaches to the problem.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With both the Army and Air Force rocked by sexual violence charges against personnel tasked with preventing sexual assaults, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to mandate strict new criteria for officers in such jobs.

“When you have two incidents in two different branches of the military within 30 days of each other, then you realize that you need to scrub what’s going on and start over – recertify, retrain and re-qualify all the people that are doing these jobs,” McCaskill said.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: WASHINGTON – With the Pentagon reporting a sharp increase in sexual assaults and the Air Force officer in charge of preventing such crimes charged with sexual battery, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill is stepping up her efforts to try to toughen prosecution and alter laws to deter such crimes.

“I am confident there will be changes in how rape and sexual assault cases are handled in the military [included] in this year’s national defense authorization bill,” McCaskill, D-Mo., said in an interview Wednesday.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Veterans advocate Terri Odom says that 25 years after she was brutalized by a trusted Navy colleague, she is finally getting on with her life -- by advocating for the nearly 20,000 U.S. servicewomen and servicemen who are the victims of military sexual assault every year.

Odom, 48, says it’s time for the military to change the way it handles sexual assault cases because rapes are rarely prosecuted and victims are often punished for reporting the crime. She believes that little has changed since she was tortured and raped -- and ultimately forced out of the Navy with an honorable discharge without her case ever being investigated.