WASHINGTON DC (February 11, 2020) — Senators Charles "Chuck" Grassley (R-IA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to require the military to establish a “Safe to Report” policy. According to a Department of Defense report, in fiscal year 2018, only 30% of sexual assaults in the military were reported. Studies show more survivors are empowered to come forward without the threat of retaliation, and The Safe to Report Act empowers survivors of sexual violence to report these incidents without fear of collateral misconduct charges for minor offenses.
“This bipartisan bill would help provide a safe environment for our men and women in uniform to report instances of sexual assault without fear of retaliation or self-incrimination for minor violations. Survivors shouldn’t have to worry that a relatively insignificant offense might get them in trouble when reporting one of the most serious of crimes. The Air Force Academy has already instituted similar policies, so there’s no reason the entire US military shouldn’t also do its part to help end the epidemic of sexual violence in our armed forces,” Sen Grassley said.
“Sexual assault is a pervasive problem across our military and despite assurances from the Pentagon and military leaders to address the issue, too many survivors still fear retribution for reporting their experiences. Reports show that when policies like Safe to Report are implemented, more survivors feel comfortable reporting assault. We need to support survivors and ensure an environment where they can come forward without fear of punishment for minor offenses. This bipartisan legislation is a long overdue step to help end sexual assault in the military,” Sen Gillibrand said.
Sexual assault rates continue to rise across the military, while survivor reporting remains unacceptably low. One in 16 women in the military reported being groped, raped, or otherwise sexually-assaulted in 2018. In the same year, there were an estimated 20,500 instances of “unwanted sexual contact,” a 38 percent increase from 2016. The Safe to Report Act works to reverse these trends and ensure survivors are not penalized for being courageous enough to come forward and report their assault. As the Department’s latest survey has indicated, the Air Force Academy’s “Safe to Report” policy is recommended as a tool for addressing sexual assault and harassment.
Sens Grassley and Gillibrand have partnered on ending sexual assault in the military before. Last year, they led a bipartisan group of senators to reintroduce the Military Justice Improvement Act, which professionalizes how the military prosecutes serious crimes by moving the decision over whether to prosecute them to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors.
This bill has been endorsed by The National Women’s Law Center, The Service Women’s Action Network, Protect Our Defenders, and The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.
The full text of the Safe to Report Act may be found HERE.