By Kristina Wong - 05/01/14 12:35 PM EDT
Reports of sexual assault in the military were up 50 percent in 2013 from the year before, according to a Pentagon report Thursday that advocates applauded as evidence survivors have more confidence in trying to seek justice.
“These numbers show concrete progress as our recent sweeping reforms continue to take root and more victims have the confidence in the system to come out of the shadows and report these crimes,” she said in a statement Thursday.
Those reforms included stripping commanders’ ability to overturn convictions, assigning victims independent lawyers to protect their rights and fight for their interests, making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report, and requiring dishonorable discharge for anyone convicted of a sexual assault.
“We know that the majority of survivors, both military and civilian, choose not to report their assaults — but this data suggests that the number of brave men and women in uniform choosing to pursue justice is increasing. Ultimately, one sexual assault is still one too many, so while these numbers represent progress, our fight is far from over,” said McCaskill.
Both McCaskill and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense: VA chief under fire for Disneyland comparison Dem senator: Sexual assault case show 'troubling command culture' Dems pressure Obama on vow to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees MORE (D-N.Y.) have been leading sexual assault reform efforts in the Senate.
Gillibrand said last month she is planning to continue efforts to separate sexual assault cases from chain-of-command authority.