Every day, members of our armed forces demonstrate their courage by bravely defending this great nation. But thousands of these servicemembers are also survivors of sexual assault from within their own ranks and are left to face down their attackers through a patchwork of military regulations.
Now, Secretary Gates has taken on this issue by improving counseling services for victims of assault, implementing new training procedures for commanders, and launching a new sexual assault prevention campaign called "Hurts One. Affects All."
We in Congress must now show our own courage in order to give these survivors the tools they need to find justice consistently across all of the service branches.
Last year the Department of Defense recorded over 3,000 reports of sexual assault across the U.S. Armed Forces. Even more alarming is the Pentagon's estimate that only 13 percent of these crimes are actually reported, meaning the true number of sexual assaults in our military is much higher.
While this issue affects both male and female servicemembers, it is women who face elevated risks. According to the Veterans Administration, more than 20 percent of female servicemembers report being sexually assaulted or harassed during their service.
Too often, victims of sexual assault don't report the crime because they are afraid of retribution or believe nothing will be done. We must do better.
These survivors deserve the best care possible and the opportunity to pursue justice. That's why, along with several other women senators, we've introduced the Support for Survivors Act.
Now, to build momentum for this bill we need to show our colleagues in the Senate that the grassroots is behind this cause.
Please visit StandUpForOurSurvivors.com to join us and stand up for our servicemembers who are victims of sexual trauma.
This legislation would provide women who report an assault with important information they need to seek justice and ensure that all documentation connected to a case of sexual trauma is stored for life by the Department of Defense.
Our military currently lacks a coordinated policy to make sure all medical records and other documents related to a sexual trauma are preserved. Each service branch has its own policy, which means that recordkeeping is often inconsistent and records are sometimes destroyed.
By requiring the military to maintain these records for life, we can help the survivors of trauma pursue legal action. What's more, this legislation could help victims in future cases involving the same perpetrator. The goal is to not only ensure justice is served, but to prevent these terrible crimes from ever happening again.
By speaking out on this issue today, you can make a real difference on behalf of these women servicemembers and help them obtain the justice they deserve.
The brave women in uniform who have faithfully served and sacrificed on behalf of our country need our support.
Follow Sen. Claire McCaskill on Twitter: www.twitter.com/clairecmc