News Releases

Murray Presses Air Force Officials on Military Sexual Assault

May 08 2013

Murray: “We don't want to be sitting here 20 years from now with the same statistics in front of us.”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley and Gen. Mark A Welsh III, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, on the issue of sexual assaults in the military, including recent allegations made against an Air Force official, and strongly urged them to revisit the current culture that fosters these attacks. Yesterday, Senator Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013, which would reduce sexual assaults within the military and address a number of gaps within current law and policy, building upon the positive steps the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has taken in recent years.

“The fact that the SAPRO report that was released yesterday says that 62 percent of servicemembers who report sexual assaults are retaliated against is really disconcerting,” said Senator Murray. “Because if people are retaliated against and there’s that fear of retaliation, we will never be able to stop this. So can you please address that issue and talk to us about how we need to make sure that the chain of command issue is not preventing these people from really being protected from ever having someone go after them if they commit one of these heinous acts?”

A key provision of the Combating MSA Act is the formation of a new category of legal advocates, called Special Victims Counsels (SVCs), who would be responsible for advocating on behalf of the interests of the victim as well as advise the victim on the range of legal issues they may face. The formation of the SVCs was modeled after a current Air Force pilot program, which General Welsh addressed during today’s hearing.

In the victim care arena, we believe one -- maybe the first game-changing thing we found, one of that collection of things we need to incorporate, is the special victims counsel program,” said General Welsh. “The initial returns on the special victims counsel program lead us to believe that victims are very happy with the legal advice they get from the time they're assigned to the time they complete their legal proceedings. We now have 265 victims from the last year assigned to the special victims counsel. That person's job is the represent that victim and guide them through the legal morass that goes along with prosecution of these cases. It's intimidating. It's scary. And if you don't understand the law, it is completely, completely baffling…So we think special victims counsel will help over time. And we think the results of the pilot program we're doing here will demonstrate that.

Last month, Senator Murray questioned the Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, and General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, about the alarming rate of reported sexual assaults within the Marine Corps.