The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel. While the number of sexual assaults that members of the military actually reported rose 6 percent to 3,374 in 2012, thousands of victims were still unwilling to come forward despite new oversight and assistance programs aimed at curbing the crimes, the report said.
By week's end, the House is scheduled to vote on its version of a defense policy bill that includes a number of sexual assault prevention provisions.
The House bill currently requires that anyone found guilty of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of those offenses receive a punishment that includes dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.
Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, plans to offer an amendment to the House bill that would make two years of confinement and a dishonorable discharge the mandatory minimum sentence for any service member convicted of rape or sexual assault. Imposing a tough, minimum sentence will serve as a deterrent to help prevent sexual assaults, according to Turner.
The House legislation eliminates the five-year statute of limitations on trial by court-martial for sexual assault and sexual assault of a child. It also establishes the authority for military legal counsel to provide legal assistance to victims of sex-related offenses and requires enhanced training for all military and civilian attorneys involved in sex-related cases.
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