United States: Military Leaders Under Attack for Handling of Sexual Assault Cases
Monday, June 10, 2013 10:20 AM

Senators Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) criticized military leaders during a June 4 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing for their handling of sexual assault cases in the military. Senator Gillibrand has proposed legislation requiring that sexual assault cases be handled outside the victim’s chain of command. She has proposed that authority to prosecute sexual assault cases should instead be given to “seasoned trial counsels” with the rank of colonel or above. Gillibrand stated, “Not all commanders are objective. Not every single commander necessarily wants women on the force, not every commander believes what a sexual assault is, not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merge all of these crimes together.” Senator McCaskill proposed a different bill that would continue to allow commanders to handle sexual assault cases but would provide harsher penalties for sexual offenders in the military. 
On June 5, 2013, The House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee approved a provision prohibiting military commanders from reversing sexual assault convictions. This bill followed Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin’s recent and controversial decision to reverse the sexual assault conviction of one of his pilots. The full House is scheduled to vote on the bill sometime this week. The House also moved to pass the Ruth Moore Act, to assist victims of sexual assault in the military in receiving disability benefits for posttraumatic stress disorder.
Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Gillibrand argued, “Until you have transparency, accountability and objectivity, where the decision-maker of whether you’re going to trial or not is an objective prosecutor and not a commander, you’re not going to have the type of reporting – and frankly, justice – that we need in the system.”
Compiled from: Naili, Hajer, “McCaskill, Gillibrand Take Military Men to Task,”WeNews (4 June 2013); Wilson, Megan R., “Gillibrand: ‘Culture change’ needed to end military sexual assaults,” TheHill.com (9 June 2013); Fox, Lauren “Military Sexual Assault Bills Get Their Day on Capitol Hill,” USNews (6 June 2013).