McCaskill: Military Sex Assault Bill Offers Sweeping Reform

Tuesday, 11 Mar 2014 09:57 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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Sexual assault victims in the military would have more power with "35 major, sweeping reforms" in the Victims Protection Act that passed unanimously in the Senate on Monday, said the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Claire McCaskill.

"We have now passed, with this passage yesterday, 35 major sweeping reforms, as it relates to sexual assault in the military. We now have created the most victim-friendly organization in the world," McCaskill, who also sits on the Senate's Armed Services Committee, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday.

"Victims have their own lawyers. Victims have more power," she said.

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The bill empowers victims of sexual assault by taking away a commander's ability to overturn lower-level decisions and offers victims more assistance through counseling and counsel.

Calling sexual assault "the most under-reported crime in America," McCaskill said the change would enable victims to "come out of the shadows and hold these folks accountable that have committed these heinous crimes."

The change would mean "more cases will be tried, more victims protected," McCaskill predicted. She said the bill also would make retaliation a crime.

McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said she now wanted to focus on sexual assault on college campuses, where she said the crime was "massively under-reported."

"Women don't want to come forward and talk about the most personally painful moment of their life in public, to be challenged about that. And so we've got to create a system . . . where the victim gets good information, can report in a safe place, and then be surrounded by their own counsel, support counsel, in terms of counseling services," she said.

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