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senate Bill S. 1495

Should Military Programs & Processes for Responding to Sexual Assault be Improved?

Argument in favor

Sexual assault in the military is a tremendous problem. Low prosecution rates and even lower conviction rates are endangering servicemembers’ safety. This bill would give military commanders, investigators, prosecutors, and survivors the resources to investigate and punish these crimes.

burrkitty's Opinion
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08/11/2019
Are they humans or animals?!?! I reject this “boys will be boys” mentally that implies that these ADULT MEN fail to understand consent or that somehow military training turns ADULT MEN into UNCONTROLLABLE ANIMALS who are somehow not responsible for RAPE. We don’t train men to rape in the military! BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT.
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DayGallini's Opinion
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08/11/2019
This is a dumb question. Yes. Of course. Why would you not?
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SneakyPete's Opinion
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08/11/2019
👍🏻👍🏻Senate bill S-1495 AKA the Combating Military Sexual Assault👍🏻👍🏻 I’m in full agreement with Senate bill S-1495 AKA the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act which would seek to combat military sexual assault by bolstering sexual assault reduction programs in the military, making improvements to the investigation and judicial process and enhancing victim support after an assault has been reported. A breakdown of this bill’s provisions can be found below: Sexual assault in the military is a tremendous problem. Low prosecution rates and even lower conviction rates are endangering servicemembers’ safety. This bill would give military commanders, investigators, prosecutors, and survivors the resources to investigate and punish these crimes. SneakyPete..... 👍🏻👍🏻S-1495👍🏻👍🏻. 8.11.19....
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Argument opposed

Keeping military commanders involved in the sexual assault response process is a bad idea. Evidence shows that military commanders often pressure those reporting sexual assault to drop their claims; so relying on them to investigate and prosecute these crimes is doomed to fail.

SaltyCWolf's Opinion
···
08/11/2019
As someone involved in the process I can tell you first hand that the issue is a political tail wagging the dog. What everyone forgets is that instead of helping we’ve over complicated the situation with red tape. Because the military is full of young adults & adolescents who are on their own for the first time they are making bad decisions and false reporting in an attempt to indemnify themselves or a friend. Unfortunately military police and college campus police have a lot in common. Where the military is at a disadvantage is the levels of bureaucracy and ineffectiveness they must operate under. Further complicated by the need to with draw from civilian overreach if the other member isn’t military. There lies the issue of needing to coordinate with local law enforcement. The congressional requirements already put in place on the military doesn’t align with local and federal laws. The issue is the multitude of bad conduct but less than rape and harassment is overwhelming the system because of this meddling. If Congress was trying to truly fix the conduct and safety of all military personnel then we need to address the elephant in the room. We need the DOD to: 1. Unify Law Enforcement duties across all 7 uniformed services 2. Create a single DOD Law Enforcement System and have all services use the same forms, procedures at both NJP, Courts Martial, and better utilize the Federal Court system vice passing the buck to local governments 3. Unify the many different Federal Civilian Investigators in the separate branches and stop them from being restrained by military commanders who worry their actions my negatively impact their evaluations or command image. This would also prevent the historical Service vs Service turf battles
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jimK's Opinion
···
08/11/2019
I think SaltyCWolf has identified the core issues very well and I feel that the solutions identified are on target. When we train our youth to prepare for war, we train them to embrace their basic instincts in order to be effective in what ever roles they would have. Sexual encounters between youth who are in the process of adapting to a new environs can be expected, with all the issues of he-said, she-said and support or condemnation by peers or superiors. It is also easier for commanders who have command-authority over subordinates to abuse that authority by either initiating sexual assault or helping to cover it up for otherwise ‘good’ soldiers. I think the key to solving this comes from removing a couple of layers of command structure from any ability to influence the investigative process other than to answer questions, with orders from on-high that they may not discuss any details with service people involved and that service people may not discuss any details of the investigation with their commanders or peers- and all of this enforced by strict penalties. I do not know how much of this may already be in place. I do know that career commanders will try to keep an unblemished record and would lean toward actions to protect their command ‘accomplishments’ in lieu of protecting those who may be damaged.
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Thelma's Opinion
···
08/11/2019
Allowing the military to investigate its own sex crimes has been part of the problem. Case in point: McSally just called another woman in the military a liar because the woman came forth with her own story of abuse. While it was a he-said-she-said situation, as many are, the system McSally presents will do nothing to protect women who serve our country.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Armed Services
    IntroducedMay 15th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 1495?

This bill — the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act — would seek to combat military sexual assault by bolstering sexual assault reduction programs in the military, making improvements to the investigation and judicial process and enhancing victim support after an assault has been reported. A breakdown of this bill’s provisions can be found below: 


PREVENTION & TRAINING

This section would:

  • Direct the Dept. of Defense (DOD) to conduct additional research on effective sexual assault reduction programs at colleges and universities; and
  • Standardize and modernize training requirements across services through a comprehensive review of best practices in military justice, victim assistance, promotion of healthy command climates, and ensuring the accused is afforded due process rights


VICTIM SUPPORT

This section would:

  • Ensure Special Victim Counsels (SVCs) are located to guarantee timely access when a victim requests a SVC after reporting an assault;
  • Empower commanders with additional responsibility to communicate with victims about the investigation and judicial process;
  • Provide victims additional options for restricted reporting when a report comes from a third party;
  • Improve processes to communicating with victims and documenting victim preference about the reporting process, including jurisdictional preference;
  • Guarantee privacy protections for victims utilizing the CATCH program to report serial offenders; and
  • Remove potential barriers to reporting by directing DOD to study the feasibility of applying “safe to report” policies related to collateral misconduct offenses across all military services.


INVESTIGATION

This section would:

  • Ensure military judges have similar authority as civilian judges with relation to pre-trial issues;
  • Mandate the development of a plan to form a DOD-wide data management system to better share and track information on criminal cases, including normalizing data so that each military service is tracking the same data in the same way to ease data sharing and tracking;
  • Direct the services to create and report on processes for the immediate collaboration at the start of an investigation by Special Victim Investigation and Prosecution (SVIP) teams in order to streamline efforts;
  • Mandate that the DOD develop a process to track that Military Protection Orders are shared with civilian authorities; and 
  • Increase capabilities for investigators to meet demand for digital evidence processing and improve the timeliness of investigations.


PROSECUTION 

This section would:

  • Modify the Manual for Courts-Martial to add a specific offense for “sexual harassment”;
  • Direct the creation of non-binding sentencing guidelines to create consistency in punishment; and
  • Promote timely public access to military justice documents, while ensuring measures are taken against inappropriate release of personal information.

Impact

U.S. military service members; U.S. military service members who have been sexually assaulted; U.S. military service members who have been accused of sexual assault; sexual assault and rape in the U.S. military; U.S. military’s proceedings and processes for handling sexual assault; DOD; Manual for Courts-Martial; Special Victim Counsels (SVCs); CATCH program; military commanders; military investigators; military prosecutors; and and military judges.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 1495

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) — herself a military sexual assault survivor — introduced this bill to combat military sexual assault by making improvements to the investigation and judicial process and victim support after assaults have been reported: 

“Sexual assault is intolerable and we must step up and demand action now. A commander is like no other position in the civilian world. We need to empower commanders to have more responsibility and more accountability than they do now. My bill will improve the timeliness from the time an assault is reported to when it is brought to its conclusion. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in saying the time is now to end sexual assault and take the steps necessary to give commanders, investigators, prosecutors, and all involved in the process the resources they need.”

In an interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos, Sen. McSally added: 

“When America’s mothers and fathers send their sons and daughters off to the military, it’s our responsibility and a covenant to keep them safe from crimes being committed by other teammates. We put our lives on the line when we go to battle, but we’ve got to stop these crimes. Obviously we’ve got to stop these assaults from happening in the first place. We’re going to be actually tackling that next, but I wanted to present something before we marked up the defense bill… My bill, actually, really is going to improve the opportunity for justice, due process and timely and thorough process related to these issues, and I think it really will make a difference.”

Unlike some, Sen. McSally doesn’t want to take the decision as to whether to prosecute sexual assault cases out of commanders’ hands. In the KTAR News interview, she said, “I very strongly disagree with that [idea], as a former commander and as a survivor, but I wanted to also show I’m not for the status quo.” Sen. McSally expounded on this idea in an ABC News interview: 

“If you want to solve anything in the military, you have to have commanders more involved. It's like no other position in civilian life. I mean, we tell people to go take lives, maybe to give their own life. We are responsible for every element of their -- everything that they do… The problem is not the ultimate decision whether to prosecute or not by the convening authority, which is usually a colonel or a general. The problem is that oftentimes, the case along the way is taking too long. It's like a cancer rotting in the unit while this case goes on."

Original cosponsor Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) says

“Sexual assault can never be tolerated – not in our military or anywhere else in this country. I’m proud to work with Senator McSally, a courageous voice for victims, to end sexual assault. The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act gives our military the resources it needs to end the plague of sexual assault, hold perpetrators accountable, and provide victims the support they deserve.”

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) supports this bill. Its president and CEO, Dana Atkins, says

“MOAA supports this comprehensive bill ensuring our armed forces capitalize on standardized prevention and training while remaining flexible enough to adapt to best practices. The added support for victims continues to be paramount as we continue to learn from each other, and from other institutions, to try and rid our forces of sexual assault.”

Paula Coughlin, a former Navy lieutenant who now serves on the board of directors of Protect Our Defenders, an organization dedicated to ending sexual assault in the military, argues that keeping commanders at the center of handling sexual assault cases in the military, as this bill does, is a mistake

“Despite mandatory ‘zero tolerance’ training since 1992, sexual assault is epidemic. Reports have increased by 50 percent at service academies in only two years, meaning about 20 percent of the officers in an upcoming class could be a victim of rape/assault or worse, the assailant. Our future commanders’ experience is that rape is rarely a punishable crime and, worse, that the good-ole-boy system will likely protect them. Commanders have an accountability gap. A squadron commander with a 3 percent mission success rate is a failure, yet there is a 3 percent conviction rate on sexual assault cases in the military — with no accountability for the outcome of those cases within the commander-controlled justice system. Unrestricted assault reports skyrocketed to an all-time high in 2017, yet, only 166, or 3 percent, resulted in convictions. In a 2015 Pentagon survey, 40 percent of victims reported their command encouraged them to drop their complaint. Victims endure the worst denigration trying to report assaults, especially when it’s against a person within their command; 50 percent of victims work with their perpetrator. Merciless retaliation cannot be squelched by good leadership if the ‘leader’ may be the perpetrator, and 25 percent are assaulted by someone to whom they report in their command… Unfortunately, history shows us that the expectation that commanders will execute an impartial and fair interpretation of justice is unfounded.”

This bill has six Republican Senate cosponsors. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), has two bipartisan House cosponsors (one from each party). As of August 2, 2019, neither bill had received a committee vote. The legislationl has the support of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and One Nation.


Of NoteThe latest DOD annual report on sexual assault revealed that 5,277 servicemembers reported sexual assault incidents occurring during military service. It also revealed a 47% increase in unwanted sexual encounters at service academies, where reports increased from 507 to 747 during the 2017-2018 academic year. The Pentagon’s most recent annual report found even higher numbers: it showed nearly 15,000 servicemembers reporting having been sexual assaulted. It also reported that most victims were assaulted more than once, bringing total assaults to over 41,000 a year — or 112 a day. As of early June 2019, the latest figures for 2018 showed 20,500 reported cases of military sexual assault (versus 14,900 cases in 2016).

In a May 2019 DOD report, 6% of women in the military reported being sexually assaulted in 2018. This was the highest rate since 2006, when the Pentagon first instituted policies to encourage greater reporting of sexual assault. According to reporting by the Pentagon, a woman in the military has a one in four chance of being assaulted by a fellow servicemember during her career; and a man has a one in 15 chance of being assaulted by a fellow servicemember


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / JOHNGOMEZPIX)

AKA

Combating Military Sexual Assault Act

Official Title

A bill to amend title 10, United States Code, to enhance the prevention of sexual assault and related offenses in the Armed Forces, to enhance protections of victims of such offenses, to improve the investigation and prosecution of such offenses, and for other purposes.

    Are they humans or animals?!?! I reject this “boys will be boys” mentally that implies that these ADULT MEN fail to understand consent or that somehow military training turns ADULT MEN into UNCONTROLLABLE ANIMALS who are somehow not responsible for RAPE. We don’t train men to rape in the military! BULLSHIT BULLSHIT BULLSHIT.
    Like (63)
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    As someone involved in the process I can tell you first hand that the issue is a political tail wagging the dog. What everyone forgets is that instead of helping we’ve over complicated the situation with red tape. Because the military is full of young adults & adolescents who are on their own for the first time they are making bad decisions and false reporting in an attempt to indemnify themselves or a friend. Unfortunately military police and college campus police have a lot in common. Where the military is at a disadvantage is the levels of bureaucracy and ineffectiveness they must operate under. Further complicated by the need to with draw from civilian overreach if the other member isn’t military. There lies the issue of needing to coordinate with local law enforcement. The congressional requirements already put in place on the military doesn’t align with local and federal laws. The issue is the multitude of bad conduct but less than rape and harassment is overwhelming the system because of this meddling. If Congress was trying to truly fix the conduct and safety of all military personnel then we need to address the elephant in the room. We need the DOD to: 1. Unify Law Enforcement duties across all 7 uniformed services 2. Create a single DOD Law Enforcement System and have all services use the same forms, procedures at both NJP, Courts Martial, and better utilize the Federal Court system vice passing the buck to local governments 3. Unify the many different Federal Civilian Investigators in the separate branches and stop them from being restrained by military commanders who worry their actions my negatively impact their evaluations or command image. This would also prevent the historical Service vs Service turf battles
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    How is this even a question!?!!
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    This is a dumb question. Yes. Of course. Why would you not?
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    👍🏻👍🏻Senate bill S-1495 AKA the Combating Military Sexual Assault👍🏻👍🏻 I’m in full agreement with Senate bill S-1495 AKA the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act which would seek to combat military sexual assault by bolstering sexual assault reduction programs in the military, making improvements to the investigation and judicial process and enhancing victim support after an assault has been reported. A breakdown of this bill’s provisions can be found below: Sexual assault in the military is a tremendous problem. Low prosecution rates and even lower conviction rates are endangering servicemembers’ safety. This bill would give military commanders, investigators, prosecutors, and survivors the resources to investigate and punish these crimes. SneakyPete..... 👍🏻👍🏻S-1495👍🏻👍🏻. 8.11.19....
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    I think SaltyCWolf has identified the core issues very well and I feel that the solutions identified are on target. When we train our youth to prepare for war, we train them to embrace their basic instincts in order to be effective in what ever roles they would have. Sexual encounters between youth who are in the process of adapting to a new environs can be expected, with all the issues of he-said, she-said and support or condemnation by peers or superiors. It is also easier for commanders who have command-authority over subordinates to abuse that authority by either initiating sexual assault or helping to cover it up for otherwise ‘good’ soldiers. I think the key to solving this comes from removing a couple of layers of command structure from any ability to influence the investigative process other than to answer questions, with orders from on-high that they may not discuss any details with service people involved and that service people may not discuss any details of the investigation with their commanders or peers- and all of this enforced by strict penalties. I do not know how much of this may already be in place. I do know that career commanders will try to keep an unblemished record and would lean toward actions to protect their command ‘accomplishments’ in lieu of protecting those who may be damaged.
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    Of course! Military sexual abuse must be exposed and perpetrators held accountable!
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    Improving the atmosphere of sexual coercion in the military should be an ongoing top priority for every leader and individual soldier who serves! In many ways and any many times, our military has shown us the way to ensure proper implementation of our core national values. They serve as a beloved and respected model for how we as citizens should view both our country and our place in it! We hold our military up as the symbol for demonstrating our national values, and those values most needed now — self-respect, respect for others regardless gender, race, creed , country of origin or sexual identity— find their best representation in our men and women who serve. This should be encouraged and supported at all levels.
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    And backed up with lie-detectors.
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    Yes it need to be improved
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    I support what Senator McSally’s Bill would do, not just for women but men also. Sex crimes don’t just affect women but men as well. #MAGA
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    Yes and put teeth in it. Commanders often cover it up for officers an upper enlisted. I was in The navy during tail hook. There was an incident with in the year. That should have led to corrective action against an E-7. They told the young lady she didn’t report it in the required time period. An she reported with in 48 hours?
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    Another mindless question. Yes, reporting of sexual assaults should be improved and those that report assaults should be held harmless in every way, including in their military careers.
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    Allowing the military to investigate its own sex crimes has been part of the problem. Case in point: McSally just called another woman in the military a liar because the woman came forth with her own story of abuse. While it was a he-said-she-said situation, as many are, the system McSally presents will do nothing to protect women who serve our country.
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    Hell yes. Start be believing women and men who report sexual abuse in their workplaces and schools. Don't give those proven guilty a slap on the wrist; jail time, or chemical castration seem a fair response for someone who rapes.
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    Practices MUST be implemented and those who commit assaults should be immediately removed from their commands...as it is those MEN with high ranks who have been the ones who have committed, lied about it and refused to support the victims. It’s time for them to be held accountable, no more slap on the wrists or swept under the rug! Their careers should be over just like they destroy the victims who report them. If it happens under your command YOU are equally guilty. I am angry....I did not realize why my brother discouraged me from joining the military. NOW I thank him for redirecting me. Military Sexual Trauma is ONLY being talked about now and it’s a shame that it has gone on so long and ignored!
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    This has to stop, period. Women don’t join the military to be someone’s sexual toy. Women are no different than males when it come to an occupation. It doesn’t matter if you work in an office, a factory, a hospital, a garage, or drive truck, or police officer or military. They want a career or a learning advantage to gain a career. If Congress drags their butt on this issue they should bow down and be ashamed of themselves. This could be their daughter or granddaughter. Put an end with high punishment.
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    It’s time the old boys club stops in the military. Women should have better Methods of reporting and following through than they have now. The boys will be boys attitude is stupid because they are NOT boys they ARE men and men can control what they do. They control what they want to control you can tell they’re not doing it in the military now. The military attitude has always been : Find them (women), Fool them, F**k them, FORGET THEM. TIME FOR A BIG CHANGE.
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    Of course. A military with espres de core is a mighty army. Attacking soldiers sexually not only under mines the army’s objective but civil and criminal rights of that soldier who has been attacked. It is a black eye on all of those who serve. Soldiers who are guilty of sexual assault must face the harshest punishments. Commanders who bury theses attacks also need to be stripped of their command and their careers- jail them
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    Women need as much support as possible to be protected from predators.
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