The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 24, 2013

Toomey co-sponsors bill supporting military sexual assault victims

The Daily Item

— WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Pat Toomey cosponsored legislation today to assist service members who are victims of sexual assault in the military and to hold their attackers accountable.

“Even just one assault of this nature is not acceptable, either within the military or society as a whole,” said Sen. Toomey. “We have seen troubling media reports suggesting incidents of sexual assault in the military. Our service members must be protected from it. We must have a prompt response when such charges occur so that those responsible are held accountable.

“I have already introduced legislation to address sexual assault in Veterans Affairs facilities, and we must do more to ensure the safety and protection of our service members and veterans.”

The legislation would:

- Provide victims of sexual assault with a Special Victims’ Counsel – a military lawyer who will assist sexual assault victims throughout the process;

- Enhance the responsibilities and authority of the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office so that it can better oversee efforts to combat, track, and report sexual assault across the armed forces;

- Refer sexual assault cases to the general court-martial level when sexual assault charges are filed or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest in the immediate chain of command;

- Prohibit sexual contact between instructors and trainees during and within 30 days of completion of basic training or its equivalent; and

- Ensure that Sexual Assault Response Coordinators are available to members of the National Guard and Reserve at all times and regardless of whether they are operating under Title 10 or Title 32 authority.

The Defense Department estimates there were 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2011. Of these, only 3,192 were reported and thus assailants were allowed to escape justice. Last year, 26,000 cases were estimated. Fewer than 3,400 of those were reported.