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At a Capitol Hill press conference Shaheen, military personnel, advocates call for immediate reforms

(Washington, D.C.) –U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and a bipartisan group of senators, former generals, survivors of sexual assault and survivors advocates today urged the Senate to support common-sense changes to the way the military prosecutes incidents of sexual assault by passing the Military Justice Improvement Act.  Shaheen, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is an original co-sponsor of the effort to reform the way sexual assaults are prosecuted by removing the decision to prosecute these cases from the military chain of command. 

“We need to dramatically change the way we deal with sexual assaults in the military if we really want to create a zero tolerance culture for this crime,” Senator Shaheen said. “Senator Gillibrand’s bill rightfully implements serious reforms and makes progress on how our military handles sexual assault prevention and response.”

Shaheen added, “Having the support of generals who have served faithfully and who also believe in the tenet of ‘good order and discipline’ validates the approach and reforms we’re proposing. This is the right way forward and the time for change is now.”

According to the Pentagon’s FY2012 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) report, an estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact occurred in FY2012, a 37 percent increase from FY2011.  Another 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.

Shaheen has been a leader in addressing the military sexual assault crisis and earlier this year, her legislation reforming the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response officers program was included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed the Senate Armed Services Committee.  The full Senate is expected to consider the NDAA and legislation to improve the military justice system as early as this week.