House passes bill expanding protections for reporting sexual assault in the military

"Before we can truly understand the scope of sexual assault in the military and how to best confront it, we have to find a way to encourage more victims to come forward," she said Wednesday. "We have to find a way to empower the victims and restore their faith in the military justice system."

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The bill follows a report from the Defense Department that says sexual assaults increased by more than a third from 2010 to 2012. Several members have said that reporting these crimes can result in retaliatory personnel actions.

Under current law, the Defense Department inspector general (IG) is tasked with examining whether reports of sexual harassment have led to retaliatory personnel actions. Walorski's bill, H.R. 1864, would expand that to require the IG to look at whether reports of rape, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct has led to retaliation.

Similar language was included similar language in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). But Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), a co-sponsor of the bill, said a stand-alone measure is needed because the change is needed immediately.

"Last year, we finished and approved and got the NDAA signed on the 31st of December," she said. "This really cannot wait. This bill cannot wait. We need it today in the military."

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