Stamping Out Retaliation

The Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would make retaliation against service members who report criminal activity a unique offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to a release. The act, introduced by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and passed as part of the defense authorization bill, aims to protect members who report sexual assault and would punish members who retaliate by taking or threatening adverse personnel action or by withholding or threatening to withhold favorable personnel action. Even though the initial data available, from 2014, show incidents of unwanted sexual contact in the military have dropped, according to the release, 62 percent of women who reported such incidents said they experienced some form of retaliation. “This plan will offer new tools to help stamp out the stubborn rates of retaliation against victims who report,” McCaskill said. The legislation would also require the Pentagon to track retaliation investigations, report the results to the complainant, and include the findings in annual sexual assault reports. Investigators who handle claims of retaliation in connection with sexual assault complaints would also receive special training. In April, just as the legislation was introduced, the Pentagon released its own strategy to prevent retaliation. The plan offers standard definitions, calls for improved data collection and analysis, suggests comprehensive support systems be created, and seeks to create “a culture intolerant of retaliation.”