"Disgusting Epidemic" Prompts Military Assault Bill

By Tom Bacon

Alarmed by a new Pentagon estimate of 26-thousand military sexual assault attacks last year, Washington Senator Patty Murray has quickly whipped up a bill to address what she called "a disgusting epidemic."

Murray and New Hampshire Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte have drafted a measure meant to address several gaps in current law and military policy and to build on steps the Pentagon has taken in recent years to combat the problem.

Among other things, Murray's bill would give victims of sexual assault quick access to military lawyers who would counsel them throughout the process. The measure would also beef up the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

One of Murray's colleagues, Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, said the sexual battery arrest of the Air Force officer who led the service's Sexual Assault unit underscores how far the Pentagon has to go in addressing the plague of such crimes in the military.

Murray said more than 3,300 cases of sexual assault were reported by members of the military last year, but anonymous surveys estimated the actual number was about 26,000. She said the culture which fosters this behavior must be rooted out, and that victims must be able to get substantive help.
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