[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Today, U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Katie Britt (R-AL) introduced legislation to protect survivors of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the United States Coast Guard Academy (CGA) and throughout the entire Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Act requires the Coast Guard to implement a safe-to-report policy to protect servicemembers and cadets from punishment for minor infractions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice when reporting incidents of sexual abuse.
“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 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.”
“The Coast Guard’s history of downplaying and covering up sexual harassment and assault at the Academy is unacceptable. This legislation will help repair the Coast Guard’s reputation by establishing much-needed reporting safeguards to encourage service members to report wrongdoing and to feel safe doing so,” said Johnson.
“The Coast Guard Academy spent decades covering up its history of harassment and sexual misconduct, and it’s devastating to think of how many more incidents went unreported for fear of punishment for minor misconduct like breaking curfew or underage drinking. Cadets and midshipmen at every other military academy are protected by a ‘safe-to-report’ policy, and those at the Coast Guard Academy deserve those same protections. While Coast Guard leadership is finally taking steps to improve oversight, training, and support for survivors, this bipartisan legislation is necessary to protect cadets and ensure accountability,” said Murphy.
“After Operation Fouled Anchor revealed a culture of sexual abuse and a systematic suppression of reports of this abuse at the Coast Guard Academy, it’s clear that reforms need to be made,” said Blackburn. “One of the most immediate actions we can take is to ensure that survivors of this sexual abuse—all of whom were young cadets intent of serving our country— can tell their stories without fear of punishment. Congress has an obligation to protect these young men and women and make these safe-to-report policies permanent.”
“The reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment at the Coast Guard Academy and throughout the service are nothing short of unacceptable. The brave women and men who sign up to serve our country must feel safe and empowered to speak up if they experience sexual misconduct and harassment,” said Baldwin. “Our bipartisan legislation will better protect victims of sexual violence and harassment and ensure cadets and all members of the Coast Guard can access the resources and justice they deserve.”
“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,” Britt said.
Complimentary legislation is led in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-CT), who introduced the bipartisan Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Parity Act in August.
“Safe to report policies make it easier for cadets to report wrongdoing without fear of collateral punishment. I introduced the Safe to Report Parity Act in August of 2023 to ensure cadets are afforded the same protections as other members of the military when reporting sexual assault and harassment—one of many steps I’ve taken over the last decade to institute safeguards to prevent and address sexual assault across the Coast Guard. I am pleased that Senators Blumenthal and Murphy have joined me in this effort and applaud the Coast Guard for voluntarily adopting a Safe to Report policy. I will continue leading efforts in Congress to ensure Safe to Report policies for the Coast Guard are codified into law and in place to protect cadets and Coasties for generations to come,” said Courtney.
Last week, the Coast Guard established a safe-to-report policy to protect servicemembers reporting cases of sexual assault. While this policy is a positive step forward, the Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Act goes further, establishing safeguards for members of the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Academy cadets who experience sexual harassment. In addition, by making this policy a statutory requirement, this legislation aligns the Coast Guard with other military services that were required to implement similar policies in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021.
By requiring the implementation of a safe-to-report policy, the Coast Guard Academy Safe-to-Report Act ensures that survivors cannot be punished for certain minor offenses, including drinking and violating curfew, when reporting cases of sexual abuse.
The text of the legislation can be found here.
Blumenthal and Johnson, the Chair and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), have also opened an inquiry into the Coast Guard Academy’s mishandling of sexual assault investigations and its failure to disclose the results of its sexual assault investigation to Congress or the public. In December, PSI held a hearing with current and former Coast Guard Academy cadets, who experienced sexual assault, sexual harassment, or retaliation at the Academy and in the Coast Guard.