McCaskill says senior officials should be involved in reporting military sexual assaults

Senators rushed to introduce legislation addressing sexual assault in the military after the Pentagon released a report in May that nearly 26,000 military service members were victims of sexual assault during the previous year. The Armed Services Committee will be considering measures addressing the issue on Wednesday.

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“Certainly no woman or man wants to come forward and talk about being a victim of this crime,” McCaskill said. “These are difficult cases to bring forward because of the intensely personal nature.”

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: VA chief 'deeply' regrets Disney remark; Senate fight brews over Gitmo Dems discuss dropping Wasserman Schultz Defense bill renews fight over military sexual assault MORE (D-N.Y.) called for a plan that would have removed senior military officials from the sexual assault reporting process, but some members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — including McCaskill — weren’t convinced that completely changing the military code of justice was the best reform.

Sens. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate backs equal pay for female soccer players Feds can learn lessons from states about using data to inform policy Lawmakers blast poultry, meat industries over worker injuries MORE (D-Wash.) and Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSenators to Obama: Make 'timely' call on Afghan troops levels Overnight Defense: Pentagon chief fears sequestration's return Senate GOP ties Iran sanctions fight to defense bill MORE (R-N.H.) introduced another bill that would have created a special victims unit within the military to help victims through the existing reporting process, among other things.

McCaskill said the Armed Services Committee would be discussing a plan that differs from Gillibrand’s. Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinCarl, Sander Levin rebuke Sanders for tax comments on Panama trade deal Supreme Court: Eye on the prize Congress got it wrong on unjustified corporate tax loopholes MORE (D-Mich.) has proposed an alternative.

McCaskill added that Levin's alternative would be an improvement from Gillibrand’s bill because it would also make it a crime to retaliate against military sexual assault victims who report the wrongdoing.

“I believe these reforms will do a better job of getting predators behind bars and ultimately creating a more supportive environment for victims to come forward,” McCaskill said. “If more changes are necessary, I will be the first in line to work for them. ... Any coward who besmirches the pride of our military by committing a sexual assault should go to prison and that is what will happen under these provisions.”

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