WASHINGTON -- The House has approved a bill extending whistle-blower protection to members of the military who are victims of sexual assault.

The vote Thursday was 423-0 for the measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana. The bill would require the inspector general to investigate allegations of retaliation against a service member who reports a rape or sexual assault.

The provision is already part of a sweeping defense policy bill that the House passed earlier this month. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The bill reflects Congress' effort to deal with the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • 'Full Battle Rattle'

    Rebekah Havrilla, out on patrol in Afghanistan. The former Army sergeant and Explosive Ordnance Disposal specialist enlisted in 2004, seeking out job training, education, "some patriotic element" after 9/11 and a way out of South Carolina. "I went in with the idea of making a career out of it," she says. "I thought, I can't be Special Forces, I can't do Rangers because I don't have a penis -- closest thing I can get to actually doing that type of job is EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal]."

  • Shot Hole

    Havrilla crouches in the remnants of a "demolition shot" she and her team did of a "bunch of captured enemy munitions" outside of Forward Operating Base Gardez, in Afghanistan. "It's a very male dominated, hypermasculine environment, so you've got to be the tomboy, kind of, 'let's play cowboys and indians. And soldiers,'" she says. But to some, this also meant persistent sexual harassment and even assault.

  • Rebekah Havrilla

    Havrilla says intense nightmares kept her from sleep, night after night, after she got back from Afghanistan -- until recently, when she moved to New York. Though Havrilla says that at first she suffered from the kind of hyper-vigilance described by fellow combat veterans in urban settings, she loves the city -- namely because it is so different than where she grew up, in a conservative Christian family in rural South Carolina. She is getting her Masters and working for the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN).

  • Tia Christopher

    An early photo of Tia Christopher, who joined the Navy at age 18 in 2000 and was out just under a year later, honorably discharged with a "personality disorder."

  • Women Veterans

    Tia Christopher and her friend Aston Tedford at a women veterans retreat in Arizona several years ago. Christopher now works as an advocate for veterans, in particular victims of MSA, and has written guidance on the subject.

  • Jungle

    Tia Christopher in a favorite photo.

  • 'I'm Beautiful Despite The Flames'

    Tia Christopher sent this photo of her recently completed tattoo Friday, Sept. 28. Written in Arabic, she says "her motto" -- which covers scars from her assault -- more literally translates: "Despite the flames that devoured my flesh, I am still beautiful."

  • Tia Christopher

  • Balloons

    Claire Russo in a childhood photo.

  • Claire & Coconut

    Claire Russo pictured at 10 years old, in 1989 with "Coconut." Russo grew up near Washington, D.C., and worked on the Hill. "I was sort of -- well no, a really privileged middle-class kid," she says. "I was just fascinated with the debate, and the decisions the government was making … And I remember a very strong desire to serve."

  • Claire Russo Salutes Her Cousin

    Claire Russo in 2004 at Quantico, right after being commissioned, saluting her cousin Tom Winkle, a Navy lieutenant and pilot. Russo lived with Winkle in San Diego, and was with him the night of her assault, at the Marine Corps Ball. It was Winkle that reported Russo's assault; she did not want to report, being afraid for her career.

  • Basic School

    Claire Russo (right) with her roommate at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., after finishing a field exercise. Russo says that one of the 30 females in the class of 180 was raped in the barracks while she was at The Basic School.

  • Fallujah Courtyard

    Claire Russo in a courtyard in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006, when she served as the targeting officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. She deployed two weeks after testifying at the discharge hearing of the serviceman who raped her, Douglas Alan Dowson -- he was already in prison.

  • 'Citizen Of Courage'

    Claire Russo (front) salutes the flag during the national anthem, before she was given the "Citizen of Courage" award from the San Diego District Attorney's office in 2006. Behind her is San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and First Marine Expeditionary Force (IMEF) Commanding General John Sattler, who Russo says is the "only commander to ever apologize to me for what I experienced."

  • Russo And San Diego DAs

    Deputy District Attorney Gretchen Means, Claire Russo and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, after Russo received the "Citizens of Courage" award from the San Diego District Attorney's office at Camp Pendleton in 2006.

  • Down The Aisle

    Claire Russo at her wedding to Josh Russo. Lt. Josh Russo was stationed at Camp Pendleton, some 40 miles north, at the time of Russo's assault in 2004. He remains in the military.

  • Claire And Josh Russo

    Claire and Josh Russo on their wedding day, with friends from the Marines.

  • Russo And Her Motorcycle

    "Me on my Russian Minsk 120 cc dirt bike, in Laos. This was one day on an 8 month trip/honeymoon Josh and I took. We rode motorcylces through SE Asia, Australia and went to Africa," Russo describes in a recent email.

  • 'Marawara'

    Claire Russo in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, on a mission with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Army Paratroopers. "I spoke with the district governor that day about how we could help to get a woman working for the Ministry of Womens Affairs working in his district," Russo writes.

  • Claire, Josh And Genevieve Russo In Paris

    Claire Russo and her husband, Josh Russo, and their baby Genevieve, here four weeks old, in Paris. Josh serves in the U.S. Army.

  • St. Genevieve

    "My 4 week old daughter Genevieve and I in front of a painting of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, who saved the city from the Huns," Russo writes.

  • Marti Ribeiro In Front Of Village

    Marti Ribeiro served with the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines over eight years as a combat correspondent.

  • Interviewing

    As a combat correspondent, Marti Ribeiro accompanied medical convoys to remote areas without local doctors. Such clinics were set up in specific locations, so the locals needed significant advance warning of their arrival. When one such convoy came under attack, Ribeiro returned fire, earning her a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/women-at-war-unseen_n_1498291.html#slide=964342">Combat Action Badge</a>, though as a female, she officially should not have been in a position to take fire.

  • 'Afghan Girls On Rooftop'

    A photograph of Afghan girls, taken by Marti Ribeiro during her deployment.

  • Ribeiro In 2006

    Marti Ribeiro and an Afghan boy in 2006.

  • 'Soaked To The Bone And Miserable'

    Marti Ribeiro titles this photo -- taken in Afghanistan in 2006 -- as "soaked to the bone and miserable."

  • Marti Ribeiro And Her Daughter Bela

    Marti Ribeiro and her daughter, Bela, in San Antonio, Texas.