Target: The House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee
Goal: Praise efforts to tackle the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military.
A Pentagon report released this year suggested that up to 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted in 2012. This number is a significant increase over the 19,000 estimated assaults in 2011. The military’s four service academies have also witnessed a similar trend. In the 2008-2009 academic year, there were 25 reported cases. This number has more than tripled for the 2011-2012 academic year with 80 reported cases.
Even West Point, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious military academy known for having one of the military’s most progressive faculties, is dealing with current allegations against Sergeant First Class Michael McClendon for allegedly videotaping female cadets without their consent. Before these allegations, Sergeant McClendon was a tactical non-commissioned officer who was “responsible for the health, welfare and discipline” of the cadets. He was supposed to help each cadet achieve a good balance of “physical, military, academic and moral-ethical programs.” Instead he is accused of violating around a dozen of female cadets’ trust by videotaping them in the showers, the bathrooms as well as other places on campus.
The increasing number of sexual assault cases and the recent event at West Point has shown Congress that the military needs a more aggressive approach. A House panel passed a new bill that forbids commanders to reverse a court-martial ruling, except in cases involving minor offenses. Commanders are also prohibited from changing a guilty finding by a court martial to one of a lesser offense. Moreover, the law requires an individual found guilty of rape, sexual assault, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of those offenses to be punished as well as dismissed from military service. Another laudable point in the legislation is victims will not face reprisal for reporting incidents of sexual assaults in the hopes of encouraging more sexually assaulted military members to come forward.
Forcing the army to tackle the surge in sexual assaults will make the military a healthier and more inviting place for current and future military members.
Dear the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee.
You recently passed a new legislation to protect victims of sexual harassment and assault in the armed services. An estimated number of 26,000 people were sexually assaulted in the military last year. This number is far too high and does not account for those victims who are too afraid to come forward. An environment in which guilty individuals get away for sexually assaulting others and victims are too afraid to stand up is harmful to the army, and the country as a whole.
By passing the new legislation to strip commanding officers of authority in the case of a court-martial ruling and to dismiss guilty offenders from military services, you are sending a strong message that sexually assaulting someone, no matter how high you are in the ranks, is unacceptable and will be punished. Furthermore, you are telling victims that they can come forward without fear of retribution.
I want to thank you for tackling the growing epidemic of sexual assaults and paving a way for more laws to make the military a better place for the people who work hard to make all our lives safer.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: U.S Army Africa via Flickr