Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement praising the Senate’s unanimous passage of the Victims Protection Act (S. 1917), legislation she offered with Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to combat military sexual assault, bolster victims’ rights, and boost accountability for offenders:

“I’m pleased our efforts to protect victims and promote accountability have resulted in the Senate’s approval of meaningful, bipartisan legislation. Our bill strengthens the host of historic reforms passed in last year’s NDAA to protect our men and women in uniform from violence in their own ranks. The Senate’s passage of our proposal is a victory for all those working towards the shared goal of ending sexual assault in the military and protecting our service men and women from these heinous crimes.”

“While this bill achieves significant progress, our work here is not done. Congress has an important role in oversight and must work closely with military leaders and the administration to ensure these reforms are effectively and appropriately implemented.”

Fischer spoke last weekon the Senate floor urging her colleagues to support the McCaskill-Ayotte-Fischer proposal, which builds upon the reforms passed in the NDAA with a number of provisions, including:

  • Eliminating the Good Soldier Defense
    • Modifies the Military Rules of Evidence to prevent defendants from using good military character unless it is directly relevant to an element of the crime for which they are charged.
  • Allowing Victim Input in Prosecution of Perpetrators
    • Requires Special Victims Counsels to advise victims of the advantages & disadvantages of a case being prosecuted in the military or civilian justice system and provides victims the opportunity to express their preference on where the case is heard, giving a victim a greater degree of control of his or her case.
  • Allowing Sexual Assault Victims to Challenge Their Discharge or Separation from Service
    • Requires the services to set up a confidential process that will enable a victim of a sexual assault who was subsequently discharged to challenge the terms or characterization of his or her discharge—in order to take a retrospective look at possible instances of retaliation.
  • Strengthening the Role of the Prosecutor in Advising Commanders on Going to Court Martial
    • In the event a prosecutor recommends a case go forward and the commander disagrees, under the amendment, the case is kicked up for review to the civilian service secretary, providing yet another level of review in these cases when needed. The NDAA currently requires the higher-level review only when there is disagreement between the commander and his or her legal counsel/judge advocate.
  • Boosting Accountability of Commanders for Addressing Sexual Assault & Setting Appropriate Command Climate
    • Strengthens evaluations for commanding officers and the command climate they establish as it relates to allegations of sexual assault and the way victims of crimes are treated within the unit following reports.
  • Extending Protections to the Military Service Academies
    • Clarifies that all changes in the NDAA related to sexual assault prevention and response apply to the military service academies.

Last year, Fischer introduced two additional bipartisan amendments to fight military sexual assault by bolstering the rights of victims impacted by crimes and heightening the caliber of appointed sexual assault prevention officers.

Both measures were adopted by the Armed Services Committee to the NDAA in June and passed by the Senate in December. More information on these amendments is available HERE.