WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema, along with combat veteran Republican Senator Joni Ernst (Iowa), introduced a pair of legislative reforms to improve the military’s ability to prevent and respond to sexual assault.
“The military has made progress in protecting and empowering survivors of sexual assault, but more must be done to prevent assault in the first place. We’re continuing our work to protect servicemembers from sexual violence and hold perpetrators accountable,” said Sinema.
“Having spent more than 23 years serving in uniform, and as a survivor of sexual assault, I understand the urgent need to tackle the issue of sexual misconduct and domestic violence in our military. The numbers are disappointing, and the way we address this issue must be bipartisan. That’s why I’m glad to team up with Senator Sinema on these bipartisan bills that will not only expand support for victims and servicemembers, but focus on preventing these incidents from happening in the first place,” said Senator Ernst.
As part of the Senators’ package of reforms, Sinema introduced a bill directing the Defense Department to create a civilian advisory committee on sexual assault prevention. The committee would be comprised of up to 20 civilian members with expertise in campus sexual assault prevention, suicide prevention, public health, and culture change of large organizations, among other areas. The committee would advise the Secretary of Defense on ways to implement new programs or improve existing programs dedicated to preventing sexual assault.
Sinema and Ernst also introduced legislation that codifies many of the military’s best practices for referring military sexual assault to courts martial, expands eligibility for Special Victim Counsel services to victims of certain domestic violence offences, and provides for the correction of military records and discharges for former military members who were survivors of military sexual trauma or intimate partner violence.
Additionally, the package allows the military to pay for exceptionally qualified enlisted members to attend law school and join the JAG Corps, and encourages military commanders to take prompt administrative action in cases where non-judicial accountability is necessary. In April, Sinema met with JAGs assigned to the military’s Special Victim Counsel program to hear about issues facing the Special Victim Counsel corps and discuss ways to improve outcomes for survivors of sexual assault in the military. Earlier this year, Sinema cosponsored the bipartisan Servicemembers and Veterans Empowerment and Support Act, which ensures that veterans who have been the victims of sexual trauma have access to the health care and mental health services they need.