The problem of sexual assault in the military is drawing increasing scrutiny in Congress.
Legislation by Rep. Mike Turner, the FAIR Military Act, would, among other things, limit the ability to cite a soldier's clean record when defending the person against sexual assault charges. The Ohio Republican's bill would also establish an independent panel to review how victims' mental health records are admitted into evidence during a trial.
And the proposal would require that the military sexual assault prevention measures included in the most recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also apply to the military service academies. Those policies include prohibiting military commanders from overturning convictions and making it a crime to retaliate against anyone who reports a sexual assault.
The measure would further direct the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on the implementation of the sexual assault prevention policies outlined in the NDAA, and as directed by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
"The FAIR Military Act is another powerful step toward the elimination of sexual assault in the military," Turner said in a statement. "This legislation confronts failures in our current system and takes specific action in the areas of prevention, protection, and prosecution."
The House action comes after a Senate push to overhaul military sexual-assault policies came up short. In March, legislation by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, to remove the chain of command from prosecuting sexual assaults and other major military crimes, was derailed in the Senate on a 55-45 vote. That fell five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster.
The New York Democrat has said that the thousands of service members who are sexually assaulted each year need to be able to trust the people they're reporting the crimes to.
Gillibrand says the reason nine out of ten victims of sexual assault don't report is because they don't trust that the chain of command will do anything to help them. According to the Pentagon, there were more than 3,500 sexual assaults last year, 43 percent more than 2012.