Braley Fights to Get Justice for Victims of Sexual Assault in Military

Apr 13, 2011

Introduces bipartisan bill to investigate sexual assault, domestic violence in military

Washington, DC – This week, Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) introduced the Holley Lynn James Act – a bill to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in the military get justice. The bipartisan bill is named after Holley Lynn James, a constituent of Rep. Braley who was killed by her husband while both were in the service. James had filed complaints against her husband, who was supposed to be restricted to his barracks the night he murdered her.
Rep. Braley’s bill would strengthen the legal process for addressing claims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the military and improve policies to prevent sexual assault. The bill would better protect victims’ rights, streamline the way cases are handled, guarantee that experienced prosecutors are handling investigations, and help make sure that punishments fit the crime.
“Holley’s story is a tragic one and we are all responsible for making sure no family has to go through something like this again,” said Rep. Braley. “This bill would make sure that each report of sexual or domestic abuse is thoroughly investigated by experienced prosecutors – and that criminals are properly punished even if they wear a uniform.”
In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. According to the Department of Defense, there were 3,158 official reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2010. Because most incidents are not reported to a military authority, the Pentagon estimates this number represents only 13 to 14% of total assaults.  The Department of Defense admits that it has difficulty tracking and addressing domestic violence cases.
“The current system for preventing sexual assault in the military doesn’t work,” said Rep. Braley. “The numbers alone are staggering. Just last month, Linda Schwartz, President of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs, testified in front of the Veterans Affairs Committee that 23% of women serving in combat areas report being victims of sexual assault perpetrated by other members of the military. That’s unconscionable and intolerable.”

The Holley Lynn James Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe (TX-02), Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Rep. Bob Filner (CA-51) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (ME-01). Rep. Braley is also working closely with organizations like the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) to identify the best ways of helping victims get justice and end rape, sexual assault and harassment in the military.
“The Service Women's Action Network applauds Rep. Bruce Braley for his courage and conviction in defending the rights of servicemembers and military families,” said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps Captain and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).  “The Holley Lynn James Act is a long-overdue piece of legislation that will make civil rights history. It will protect the 19,000 servicemembers sexually assaulted annually, provide a strong deterrent to both perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence and the commanders who turn a blind eye towards regulations, and encourage institutional change by allowing survivors and their families to have their day in federal court."
“Today, military rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are at a crisis point, posing a significant threat to military personnel, mission readiness and national security.  Despite decades of trying, the military has failed to implement policies to protect servicemembers or to defend the basic rights of survivors. With 19,000 servicemembers assaulted last year, there is an immediate need for this crucial legislation,” said Bhagwati.
Last month, Rep. Braley also introduced the bi-partisan Support for Survivors Act that would require the military to preserve records connected with cases of sexual trauma and assault.