This week, Congress is set to consider legislation that would increase protections and loosen bureaucracy for military servicewomen and men who have been sexually assaulted. Women in the military are twice as likely to be sexually assaulted than non-military women, and about 71 percent of women and 85 percent of men do not report the crime.
Championed by Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), the Military Justice Improvement Act would enable assault survivors to take their cases outside of the military chain of command. Gillibrand has support from 47 Senators, but military leaders have been pushing back, arguing new measures would weaken the command structure.
According to the New York Times, military sexual assault claims are on the rise:
There were 3,553 sexual assault complaints reported to the Defense Department in the first three quarters of the fiscal year, from October 2012 through June, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period a year earlier. Defense Department officials said the numbers had continued to rise.
Information on the racial or ethnic makeup of sexual assault survivors is not readily available, but a recent study suggests black women enlist in the military at higher rates than white or Latina women.