Senate to Cut Sexual Assault Measure From Military Bill
3:56 pm, June 12th | by Grace Rasmus
In a shocking turn of events, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) announced on Tuesday that fellow party member Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) measure aimed at curbing sexual assault within the armed forces will be cut from the military spending bill.
Gillibrand’s proposal — the boldest in a pack of legislative attempts to reform the military’s process of reporting sexual assault — would have given independent prosecutors the power to decide which sexual assault crimes to try rather than military commanders, tackling the conflict of interest in the current system and alleviating victims’ fears of retaliation or retribution.
Gillibrand believes that hosting prosecution within the chain of military command creates significant barrier to reporting; as she said in a press conference, “When any single victim of sexual assault is forced to salute her attacker, clearly our system is broken.”
Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, replaced Gillibrand’s proposal (which had 27 co-sponsors including 4 Republicans) with his own; Levin’s requires a senior military officer to review decisions by commanders who decline to prosecute sexual assault cases. Although Levin’s new bill changes the system somewhat, the prosecution remains within the chain of command.
To put it in layman’s terms: this is a really big deal. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some depressing statistics! According to a recent Pentagon survey:
- An estimated 26,000 assaults took place last year
- Of those assaults, only 1,108 troops filed for an investigation. (4.2 percent of total assaults)
- Of those investigations, only 575 cases were processed. (2.2 percent of total assaults)
- Of the cases processed, only 96 went to court-martial. (0.3 percent of total assaults)
And that’s not even accounting for the fact that once at court-martial, the officer who convened the trial can change the charge, reduce the sentence, or even overturn the verdict.
Here’s another doozy: Gillibrand is one of only seven women on the Armed Services Committee. Only seven women out of the twenty-six Senators who sit on the committee. “Wow, seven seems like such a low number,” you exclaim, but oh no, this is a high number by the committee’s standards — a “record breaker,” in fact. Bothered yet?