This is Daniela Capistrano's article about the Military Justice Improvement Act that she researched, wrote and produced for Current TV in 2013. The original article is no longer online.
3 things you need to know about the Military Justice Improvement Act, a bill that could help prevent rape
Imagine signing up to defend your country, only to soon find yourself being sexually violated — and your pleas for justice ignored by your own countrymen. Unfortunately, this happens to women — and men — in the military at a growing rate. On Tuesday the Pentagon released a survey estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010.
Rape culture in the military is pervasive — on May 7, Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski was removed from his position as head of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office pending a sexual battery investigation, NBC News reports.
President Obama will hold a meeting at the White House on Thursday with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss sexual assault, after calling on the military last week to do more to prevent and investigate reports of sexual assault. “I expect consequences,” Obama said. “I don’t want just more speeches or awareness programs or training.”
Thankfully, some of our elected officials are also taking a stand — The Hill reports that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and a dozen other lawmakers introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act on Thursday morning, a bill that would remove sexual assault cases from the military’s chain of command.
“This is the only way to provide the unbiased justice that our victims need,” Gillibrand said.
On Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno said that sexual assault and harassment violate the trust between soldiers and leaders and are contrary to Army values, the Associated Press reports.
Here’s a quick breakdown of this important legislation that could help bring justice for those who risk their lives to protect our freedoms:
1. More ways to investigate and prosecute: The Military Justice Improvement Act would allow each military service’s chief of staff to establish courts, empanel juries and pick judges to hear sexual assault cases, NBC News reports.
According to Reuters, the bill would also make it so that commanders cannot set aside the conviction of anyone who has been found guilty of sexual assault or downgrade a conviction to a lesser offense.
2. Pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers: ”What does it say about us as a people, as a nation, as the foremost military in the world, when some of our service members, both men and women, have more to fear from their fellow soldiers than from the enemy?” asked Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
3. This isn’t the only sexual assault–related bill to watch: S. 871: Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 was introduced on May 7. If passed, it would amend Title 10 of the U.S. Code to enhance assistance for victims of sexual assault committed by members of the armed forces and for other purposes.
The Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, explains that, among its other benefits, S.871 would amend the National Defense Authorization Act to require the National Guard of each state and territory to ensure that a sexual assault response coordinator is available at all times to its members.
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