Target: United States Speaker of the House, John Boehner
Goal: Demand independent oversight of sexual assault cases in the military
Very few of the staggering number of sexual assaults that take place in the military every year are ever reported. Military commanders have at times used their authority to overturn rape verdicts, threaten and silence victims, and even to stop cases from going to trial.
A 2012 Pentagon survey estimated that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted that year. Of those only 3,374 cases were ever reported. The study found that a major reason for this lack of reporting was because victims feared retaliation if they spoke out–and for good reason. The Military Rape Crisis Center found that a shocking 90% of assault victims are later involuntarily discharged. The following year another Pentagon study found that of reported cases of sexual assault less then than 10% ever make it to trial. This demonstrates a culture that accepts sexual violence, and a legal system that consistently fails America’s armed service members.
When an assault is reported it does not go to directly to criminal court. Instead the survivor’s commanding officer gets to decide if the case will be sent to a military judge or whether they want to choose a different route “resolve” the problem. Even if the case goes to trial, commanders have overturned convictions or made sentences for attackers less severe. This happens all too often due to a chain of command that lacks compassion for and is in fact hostile to rape victims. Commanders’ promotions are dependent on the good conduct of their troops, giving them an added incentive to dismiss accusations of rape and keep cases out of the courts.
This is why Congresswoman Jackie Speier has introduced the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, which would take control over sexual assault cases out of the chain of command and instead give it to a new independent Sexual Assault Oversight and Response Office. Survivors of assault would report sexual violence to this new office, which would then oversee the investigation and trial.
The military chain of command has proven it cannot effectively respond to the epidemic of sexual assaults within its ranks. Urge Speaker of the House John Boehner to make this bill a legislative priority and put cases of sexual violence in the military in the more capable hands of an independent organization.
Dear Representative Boehner,
The epidemic of sexual assault in America’s military is of deep concern to me, as it is for many Americans. The Pentagon estimates that there are 26,000 cases of sexual assault in the military each year and only a small fraction are every reported. Sadly the Pentagon also found that underreporting is largely due to a justified fear of retaliation from commanding officers.
These heroes, who risk their own lives for others, deserve better. The current system allows military commanders to block trials and overturn convictions with impunity, amounting to grave human rights violations and giving young people a valid reason to avoid military service. I urge you to make passage of the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act a legislative priority.
[Your Name Here]
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