I first joined Senator Gillibrand in
advocating for this legislation back
in 2013, after truly horrifying reports out of the Pentagon about the rate
of sexual assault and other criminal offenses going unpunished, and a
recommendation from a commission on how to improve the system.
We’ve been pushing
for this bill ever since, despite promises from the DOD that they had
everything under control. We heard time and time again about new initiatives to
stop sexual assault and harassment.
They haven’t worked. In the most recent
review, almost 21,000 soldiers were victims of sexual assault. Only 4 percent of
cases went to a trial. 62 percent of those who reported sexual assault
experienced retaliation, and in 2/3 of cases, the retaliation comes from inside
the chain of command.
The DOD has had more than enough time to
try their way to fix the problem. It’s clear a new approach is needed.
By moving the decision to prosecute out of
the chain of command, perpetrators of sexual assault and other serious crimes
will be held accountable.
Survivors will have more confidence in the
process. Retaliation will be less likely.
This year, there’s fresh support for the
effort. The new Secretary of Defense, Secretary Austin, has indicated that
addressing this issue is a priority.
A DOD panel of experts that was convened
recommended taking the decision out of the chain of command.
The President has signaled his support and
the bill in the Senate has over 60 bipartisan cosponsors, including my fellow
Senator from Iowa, Senator Ernst.
We’ve been waiting almost a decade,
there’s no need to wait any longer. I urge my colleagues to show unanimous
support for protecting our men and women in the military, and allow this bill