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Shaheen, Ayotte urge support for military sex assault prosecution reform


WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte are urging fellow senators to support changes in the way the military prosecutes sexual assault.

Democrat Shaheen is an original co-sponsor of the Military Justice Improvement Act, an effort to remove the decision to prosecute sexual assault cases from the military chain of command.

"We need to dramatically change the way we deal with sexual assaults in the military if we really want to create a zero tolerance culture for this crime," said Shaheen.

Her bill, sponsored by Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is supported by generals and survivors of sexual assault, she said.

Republican Ayotte said the defense authorization bill includes provisions she authored with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would provide sexual assault victims in all military branches with a Special Victims' Counsel, a trained military lawyer to "guide the victim throughout the legal process."

"This is about making sure that victims of these crimes, both men and women, get the justice that they deserve," Ayotte said. She said military commanders must know "you will be relieved of command" if they do no support victims and "ensure that perpetrators are held accountable."

Shaheen is also a co-sponsor of the Murray-Ayotte bill.

Both Shaheen and Ayotte are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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