Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is leading the charge against sexual assault in the military, splitting from another powerful and determined Democrat, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, on her approach to protecting assault victims seeking justice.
McCaskill and Gillibrand, of New York, are both trying to solve the same problem: protecting the thousands of troops who file sexual assault accusations each year from aggressive and unnecessary questioning during pretrial military hearings, called Article 32 hearings.
In a show of unity, McCaskill, Gillibrand and Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican, co-sponsored legislation Tuesday from Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, to reform Article 32 hearings and prevent abusive treatment of sexual-assault survivors.
"Everyone who's looked at the Article 32 process agreed that it's unnecessarily harsh for survivors and that it has become an overly broad tool that has expanded beyond its original function," says McCaskill, a former courtroom prosecutor of sex crimes. "These aggressive, common-sense reforms will ensure that the process does not discourage survivors from coming forward, and that survivors' rights are also strengthened and solidified."
The bipartisan legislation -- also co-sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and the senate's leading expert on the military justice system -- was inspired by the disturbing case of a female Navy midshipman subjected to 30 hours of intimidating and invasive questioning from attorneys representing her alleged rapists during an Article 32 proceeding.
"Sexual assault in the military is simply intolerable, and there's no reason these victims should be revictimized during pretrial investigations," Blunt says in a statement. "This bipartisan legislation will help to ensure that Article 32 hearings focus on determining whether there is probable cause as originally intended, while protecting alleged sexual assault victims from becoming the target of unwarranted and abusive questioning."
McCaskill has more big ideas for protecting victims of sexual assault in the military. Find out what she's proposing after the jump.
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