One Year Later, Reform Of The Military Justice System Is Still Needed

LAST CONGRESS, I began the fight to reform the military justice system so that commanders no longer have sole authority to decide which sexual assault cases go to trial.

IN MARCH 2014, our bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act won the support of 55 Senators, just 5 votes shy of overcoming a filibuster.

While the vote failed, the next day, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a remarkable statement calling for real accountability:

“A majority of the Senate of the United States expressed a lack of confidence in our ability to solve this ourselves…we are currently on the clock if you will…we understand that just because Senator Gillibrand’s vote was defeated yesterday doesn’t mean that a year from now it may not be reintroduced and if we haven’t been able to demonstrate we’re making a difference, you know, then we deserve to be held to the scrutiny and standard.”

Well, now that year is up and it’s clear that progress has not been made.

Read The Statistics:

  • The Pentagon estimates that in 2014, there were approximately 19,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact, sexual assault and rape throughout the U.S. military, an average of 52 new cases every day.
  • An estimated 19,000 sexual assaults took place in 2014, and 75% of survivors didn’t have enough confidence in the justice system to come forward and report the crime committed against them.
  • Despite the fact that retaliation against survivors of sexual assault was made a crime, 62% of female survivors who did report experienced some form of retaliation. That number is unchanged from 2012.
  • An independent study conducted by Human Rights Watch found that survivors who reported their assault were 12 times as likely to experience retaliation as see their assailant convicted.

This isn’t progress, it’s just more of the same. It’s time for real reform and real accountability.

What now?

General Dempsey was right.

In light of the clear evidence that the military has not made progress in combating the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, I’ve re-introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act and it could come up for a vote as soon as this week.

I strongly urge my colleagues to support it.

As survivors of sexual assault tell us over and over, the reason they don’t report their assaults is that they fear retaliation and they don’t trust the chain of command to bring the assailants to justice. In the current system, the commanding officer has the sole decision-making authority over whether a case goes to trial. This is wrong and must end.

THE MILITARY JUSTICE IMPROVEMENT ACT will restore trust in the military justice system by shifting the decision making authority in felony level cases including sexual assaults from commanders, who have an inherent bias and conflict of interest, to unbiased trained military prosecutors where it belongs.

It couldn’t be more clear that reform of our military justice system is still needed to create an independent and unbiased system that allows survivors to get the justice they deserve.

Join The Fight

  • TAKE ACTION: Contact your Senators to call for real reform of the military justice system. Write, tweet or call your Senators urging support for the Military Justice Improvement Act.
  • SPREAD THE WORD: Amplify your voice by sharing this story on Facebook and Twitter so your friends and family become engaged on this issue.
  • JOIN THE CONVERSATION: Scroll down to the bottom of this post to write your own response right here on Medium.
  • ADD YOUR VOICE: Sign our petition to call for passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act.

Thank you for making your voice heard!

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