This upcoming Monday, Senator Amy Klobuchar is planning to introduce legislation that will change the way records of Military Sexual Trauma are made and retained across all five branches of the military. Her goal is to help MST victims who are unable to seek help until several years after they leave service. Currently, each branch of the military keeps records of MST incidents differently, be they actual convictions or simply allegationary reports, and these records are subsequently destroyed between one and five years after filing. This provides no lasting record for MST victims when they request care or benefits after service.
The Bill is authored by members of both political parties, and because MST records are already kept digitally requests minimal extra funding. A 2008 survey of military women, performed by the military, reports that twenty-one percent of service-women are victims of MST. In order to address this extremely high statistic, the Bill also includes provisions for research into sexual assault and harassment in the military. Senator Klobuchar said that, “these are the things any civilian would expect, and it brings the military up to that same level.” Coincidental support of her statement is happening in Virginia right now. The Virginia governing body is processing new legislation that will keep records of sexual assault and harassment for twenty years, also allowing the victims those twenty years in which they can file a lawsuit. This Bill would maintain records, and make them available, for the lifetime of the victim.
This Bill would address problems such as those caused by a former Marine Corporal. He assaulted a fellow Marine, but only received a rank reduction and a short period of extra duty. The records were destroyed, and after his service ended he worked with troubled youth in a high school in California, where he was also arrested and accused of sexually assaulting two teenage girls. Kim Wellnitz, the female Marine whom the Corporal attacked believes that if this legislation were in place at the time of her assault, he would have been kicked from the Marines, and his record made public knowledge. This would have disallowed his working at the high school, effectively denying him the opportunity to interact with those two teenage girls.
Photo thanks to MC4 Army under creative common license on Flickr.