WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) joined Representatives Ann Kuster (D-NH) and Michael Turner (R-OH) to introduce legislation to improve sexual violence data collection at key federal agencies. The legislation will implement recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report that found vast differences in data collection efforts—including the use of 23 different terms to describe sexual violence.
“I’ve spent decades fighting sex crimes, from serving as Jackson County prosecutor to tackling sexual assault on military bases and college campuses as a Senator—and it’s abundantly clear that reliable data can play a key role in strengthening efforts to combat sexual violence,” McCaskill said. “Missourians want to see Democrats and Republicans working together on important issues and that’s exactly what this bill represents and where I know we can make progress.”
“Accurate information about sexual violence is crucial as we work to take on the systemic problem,” said Kuster. “This legislation will ensure federal agencies efficiently coordinate their efforts to provide lawmakers and the general public with the best possible information about sex crimes. Gaining a more complete understanding of the persistence of sexual violence will support grassroots and government efforts to make our society safer.”
“The first steps in solving any problem is gathering information, properly defining, and admitting you have it. We must improve the quality and consistency of data made available across government agencies. The time to act on the recommendations of our federal watchdog is now,” said Chairman Johnson.
“I’ve worked with my colleagues across the aisle for nearly a decade as Chair of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus to address and improve the culture our troops work in,” said Congressman Turner. “However, we can only address what we know about. Improved reporting across these departments will help us better understand the magnitude of and more effectively combat sexual violence in the workplace.”
Sexual violence is underreported in the United States and federal agencies are collecting important data to help us understand and address the problem. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report 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. GAO reported that “differences in data collection efforts may hinder the understanding of the occurrence of sexual violence, and agencies' efforts to explain and lessen differences have been fragmented and limited in scope.” Getting the best possible data will help researchers and policy makers assess the problem and find better solutions. It will also ensure that the public knows and understands the impacts of sexual violence in this country.
The companion bills introduced today in the U.S. House and Senate require that the Office of Management and Budget—which has oversight over federal agencies’ data collection—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.
Read the bipartisan, bicameral bill HERE.