Senate approves McCaskill’s bill fighting military sexual assault

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KPLR) – Missouri senator Claire McCaskill led an effort in Washington to block a bill that would strip senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.  Critics of the way military leaders handle reports of sexual assault say those leaders rarely do enough to care for victims or punish attackers.

“The argument was posed as ‘victims vs. commander:  whose side are you on?’ And, it’s not that simple,” she explained.

 The Pentagon says officers should have more responsibility for the men and women they lead. Others say big changes are needed to cut down on the number of sexual assaults.

After the vote, senator McCaskill introduced a measure that would add several new protections for victims including banning the “Good Soldier” defense for servicemembers accused of assault and allowing victims to help determine if a case will be held in civilian or military court. Her office announced the Senate voted to advance that bill.