Time and again, we have seen that the US military is not very good at handling sexual assault cases outside the jurisdiction of regular courts. From the injustices perpetrated against Jamie Leigh Jones, to the current sexual assault scandal at Fort Hood (in which the accused rapist is the same guy tasked with handling sexual assault cases), to the many lower profile cases where the victim is convinced to keep his or her mouth shut, it’s been apparent for a long time that change is needed. Well, for once, I have something positive to report on the subject. Earlier today, a group of US Senators spearheaded by Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill that would drastically change the military’s protocol for dealing with sexual assault.
“We believe enough is enough,” said Gillibrand. “It is time to change this system that has been held over since George Washington that is simply not working today for the men and women who are serving.” Added Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), “What does it say about us as a people, as a nation, as the foremost military in the world, when some of our servicemembers both men and women have more to fear from their fellow soldiers than from the enemy?”
The bill would remove felony sexual assault cases from the military’s jurisdiction entirely, and create new protocols for dealing with cases with the military, setting up systems that would better resemble civilian criminal courts. Military commanders would no longer be allowed to handle sexual assault cases involving their subordinates, which should hopefully encourage more people to report their attacks. “When any single victim of sexual assault is forced to salute her attacker, clearly our system is broken,” said Gillibrand. The bill would also help protect rape victims from retaliation or denial of VA benefits, to which they are currently vulnerable.
Can you even imagine what it would be like to get sexually assaulted by the very person responsible for taking down sexual assaut reports? Or even to just have to report your rape to your boss, who holds ultimate discretion over what to do about it, instead of the police? I can’t. Ugh.
The military has resisted these kinds of reforms in the past, viewing them as inappropriate government meddling or some such bullshit. But considering all the horrid stories that have come to light recently, perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point in public opinion that will make these latest reform efforts a success.
Photo: Senator Kristen Gillibrand