Yesterday Indiana Senators Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats joined the rest of the United States Senate in the unanimous passage of the Victims Protection Act of 2014.
The purpose of the bill is to provide for additional enhancements of the sexual assault prevention and response activities of the Armed Forces.
However, the provisions passed in yesterday’s vote only strengthen the already existent Victims Protection Act, whereas the Military Justice Improvement Act that fell five votes shy of passage late last week, specifically addressed the needs of sexual assault victims in the U.S. military.
Donnelly and Coats split their support for the Military Justice Improvement Act, with Donnelly supporting the bill authored by fellow democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New york.
A significant difference between the two bills is the oversight of the prosecution of sexual assault cases. The Military Justice Improvement Act would remove the oversight from the army chain of command.
During Senate Armed Services Committee hearings this summer, Donnelly repeatedly expressed concern with the current system that tasks commanding officers with disciplining their own troops.
“What concerns me is that this is a personal violation of somebody,” Donnelly says, “It is a risk that could destroy a person’s soul and their emotional state. In some cases, that’s by a person who they look to as a leader, or a commander, and that they look to with a sacred trust.”
While the Victims Protection act of 2014 does not address the imbalance of power in sexual assault cases, steps such as eliminating the “good soldier” defense and increasing the victim’s council, did pass into law.