McCaskill’s Bipartisan Bill to Improve Sexual Violence Data Collection Moves Forward in the Senate

Senator: I’m committed to working across the aisle to help prevent sexual violence and support survivors

WASHINGTON – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee—where Senator Claire McCaskill serves as the top-ranking Democrat—last week advanced McCaskill’s bipartisan bill to improve sexual violence data collection at key federal agencies. The legislation will implement recommendations from a McCaskill-requested Government Accountability Office report that found vast differences in data collection efforts, including the use of 23 different terms to describe sexual violence.

“We’re handicapping our ability to make progress in addressing sexual violence if we can’t even agree on definitions and get good data,” said McCaskill, a former sex crimes prosecutor. “This is something we can and should work together on in a bipartisan way, and I’m glad we’ve taken the next step towards this bill becoming law.”

Sexual violence is underreported in the United States and federal agencies are collecting important data to help us understand and address the problem. A McCaskill-requested study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found vast differences in how the Departments of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services and Justice manage 10 different efforts to collect data on sexual violence, which vary widely in target population, terminology, and measurements. McCaskill’s bill comes in response to the Office of Management and Budget’s opposition to GAO’s recommendations. The bill will require that the Office of Management and Budget follow GAO’s recommendations and work with the Departments of Defense, Education, Justice, and Health and Human Services to improve coordination across agencies and develop useful and transparent sexual violence statistics in order to help prevent and address sexual violence and better understand the consequences of these crimes.

McCaskill’s bill is cosponsored by Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and a companion bipartisan bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. Now that McCaskill’s bill has been approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, it awaits a vote in the full Senate.

McCaskill has been a key advocate throughout her career for victims of sexual violence, in particular in the military and on college and university campuses. McCaskill’s bipartisan fix to military law to better guard against “revenge porn” by making such conduct a standard offense across the military recently became law. McCaskill is backing the Abolish Human Trafficking Act, which strengthens and extends key programs that support victims of human trafficking and provides resources to federal, state, and local law enforcement officials. That bill enhances and expands the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which the Senate passed unanimously in 2015 with a McCaskill-backed amendment that closed a loophole enabling sex offenders convicted under the Uniform Military Code of Justice to evade registering as sex offenders. McCaskill has also reached out to President Trump to help move forward her bipartisan legislation to combat campus assaults. In 2014, McCaskill announced the results of her unprecedented nationwide survey of how sexual assaults are handled on college campuses, which demonstrated a disturbing failure by many institutions to comply with current law and with best practices in how they handle sexual violence against students. 

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