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October 26, 2016   |   Ithaca, NY

BlogsWomen in Washington

Sexual assault in the military – pt. 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about sexual assault in the military and noted (or complained a bit) that very little has been done in terms of fixing the number of sexual assaults in the military.  Well, since that post, things have been happening…

Just not the right things.

By a vote of 55-45, a bill that was aimed to reduce the growing number of sexual assaults in the military was shut down.  Led by New York Senator, Kristen Gillibrand, the bill would have removed military commanders from, “deciding whether most serious allegations of wrongdoing by their subordinates should be prosecuted. The responsibility would have been shifted to prosecutors outside the chain of command.”

Gillibrand said that this step would remove any bias from smearing the decisions of commanders.

“It’s time to move the sole decision-making power over whether serious crimes akin to a felony go to trial from the chain of command into the hands of non-biased, professionally trained military prosecutors where it belongs,” she said.

Opponents argued that this would do nothing but undermine the military principle of command authority.  Michigan Senator Carl Levin, who chairs the military armed services panel, said, “The strongest most effective approach we can take to reduce sexual assault is to hold commanders accountable for establishing and maintaining a command climate that does not tolerate sexual assault.”

…okay then.  Forgive me, but isn’t that what they’re job has been this whole tome?  To create an environment in which those under them must take command from their leaders? And since when was there ever any environment where sexual assault was tolerated anywhere?  That being said, doesn’t that make Levin’s argument rather…invalid?  Clearly, that stance is not and has not been working.

More interesting in this whole situation is that a woman led the opponents of Gillibrand’s bill.  Missouri Democrat, Senator Claire McCaskill said that her steps – implemented into law last year – are plenty as they increase the prosecutions of sex assault.  Her steps included: providing attorneys to victims, making it a crime to retaliate against a victim, and requiring a dishonorable discharge to those convicted of sexual assault.

Aren’t these no-brainers? Sorry, McCaskill.  Color me not impressed.  Truly, though, there needs to be a system put into place that will actually STOP these assaults.  Not just do something to try to clean up the mess when it’s too late.