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Sen. Britt advances bipartisan bill to protect Coast Guard against sexual assault

This pivotal legislation mandates the implementation of a “safe-to-report” policy within the Coast Guard.

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In a rare bipartisan initiative, U.S. Senator Katie Britt, R-Ala., united with Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and other colleagues across party lines to introduce a groundbreaking bill aimed at bolstering the safety and rights of sexual assault and harassment survivors within the United States Coast Guard Academy (CGA) and the wider Coast Guard.

Titled the Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Act, this pivotal legislation mandates the implementation of a “safe-to-report” policy within the Coast Guard. This policy is designed to shield servicemembers and cadets from punitive measures for minor infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice when they report incidents of sexual abuse.

Senator Britt emphasized the necessity of this act, stating, “Protecting survivors of sexual assault and ensuring that all cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy have a safe environment to learn and train is of the utmost importance. Congress has already made it clear that this type of reprehensible conduct has no place in our military or on the campuses of our other service academies. It’s critical that the same standards and protections are in place at the Coast Guard Academy, so that perpetrators can be held accountable and survivors can get justice.”

Echoing this sentiment, Senator Blumenthal highlighted the urgent need for these protections. “We are sounding a call to action. Coast Guard survivors of sexual assault and harassment need and deserve safeguards—long overdue protections when they come forward against their attackers,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Survivors are now understandably afraid they’ll be punished when reporting cases of sexual misconduct. They should be supported in their recovery and pursuit of justice and receive help needed to heal. This legislation holds the Coast Guard Academy accountable by enshrining safe-to-report policies and ensuring proper protections. Recent history dramatically shows how at-risk Coast Guard members are to sexual harassment and assault—supporting prompt passage of the Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Act” he stated.

The legislative effort is further bolstered by Senators Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., alongside complementary legislation in the House of Representatives led by U.S. Representative Joe Courtney, D-Conn.

This bill represents a significant advancement over the Coast Guard’s existing safe-to-report policy. By making these protections a statutory requirement, it brings the Coast Guard in line with other military services that have implemented similar policies under the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021.

Crucially, the Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Act ensures that survivors are not penalized for minor offenses, such as drinking or curfew violations, when coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse. This act, thus, stands as a testament to the commitment of lawmakers to protect and empower those serving in the Coast Guard, fostering an environment where justice and safety are paramount.

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Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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