Target: US Senate
Goal: Protect the rights of rape and sexual assault victims in the military
Currently, allegations of rape and sexual assault in the military are dealt with by military chain of command. However, the history being uncovered around the treatment of these cases reflects an unwillingness to get to the heart of the matter and treat sexual assault cases as the serious injustice they are.
There is significant evidence of underreporting, which is no surprise given the level of coverups and backlash that can occur when a case is actually reported. The Department of Defense released a study in May of 2013 that shows 26,000 incidents of sexual offenses. Of those who did report incidents, 62 percent reported experiencing some type of retaliation.
And it’s not like this is a new issue. For years the military said it was a military issue and should be addressed within the military. Yet there has been no decrease, but instead, an increase reaching epidemic proportions. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has introduced a non-partisan bill called the Military Justice Improvement Act with 33 co-sponsors, which would remove the authority of the military courts to decide which cases get prosecuted and which don’t, including sexual assault. It would place these decisions in the hands of trained military prosecutors rather than commanding officers with a definite interest in deciding whether or not the case is brought to light and prosecuted.
The highest military officials, while claiming they want to do everything they can for the victims, are balking at these changes to the system. Insist that the Senate vote on the Military Justice Improvement Act and pass it into law to bring about the crucial changes to the military justice system that these victims and their families deserve.
Dear US Senators,
While senior military officials at the Department of Defense balk at the proposed changes, I urge you to support and work to bring the Military Justice Improvement Act to the floor of the Senate so it can be voted on, and pass it into law. It is time for critical changes, especially given that the rates of reported offenses are rising, and underreporting and retaliation of those who do report remains the norm.
Our military personnel and their families deserve better. The current system allows the decision of whether or not to prosecute crimes, including sexual assault charges, to be given to the very officers in the chain of command who may be the most harmed by such allegations. The Military Justice Improvement Act would keep military-related crimes within the military, and would turn over other crimes to experienced, high-ranking military prosecutors, who are actually qualified to do the job.
This bill, S. 967, is bi-partisan and has 33 co-sponsors standing alongside Senator Gillibrand in introducing it. I call on you to bring justice and the most basic of fairness and victims’ rights to this situation and support a floor vote if you have not already. I will be watching to see if you will address this critical change.
[Your Name Here]