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New Hampshire Senators Help Lead Bipartisan Push to Reform Military Judicial System

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) are joining a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to promote reforms to the military justice system that would better protect sexual assault survivors’ rights during investigations.  The two partnered with nine Republican and Democratic Senators to introduce legislation that would specifically amend Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to prevent abusive treatment of victims during pre-trial settings.  Article 32 proceedings ultimately determine if a case is sent to a general court-martial for trial; the push for reform comes amid reports detailing aggressive and intimidating questioning of a sexual assault victim by defense attorneys during a recent case involving midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy.

“We have to protect our men and women in uniform not only from sexual assault from within their own ranks but also from aggressive and unfair questioning during an investigation,” Senator Shaheen said. “Our bipartisan proposal will protect members of our military from harassment and intimidation, increase reporting of sexual assault and ultimately help restore confidence in our military justice system.”

“Having worked as a prosecutor, I believe strongly in protecting the rights of victims,” said Senator Ayotte. “This bipartisan legislation would further strengthen the important reforms in the annual defense bill to better protect service members who are victims of sexual assault.”

As members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Shaheen and Ayotte have worked to combat military sexual assaults and better protect victims.  Both Senators support the Murray-Ayotte Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013, which would provide victims of sexual assault in all military branches with a Special Victims’ Counsel and strengthen the Department of Defense’s sexual assault prevention programs.  Key components of the Murray-Ayotte bill – including the Special Victims’ Council provision – were included in the National Defense Authorization Act that was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee in June.

A report released by the Defense Department earlier this year showed that more than 1 in 5 female service members reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact while serving in the military.