A new report released by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) this morning shows the Department of Defense (DOD) is grossly under-reporting the number of sexual assault crimes in the US military, particularly those occurring on military bases. Gillibrand says this new information deepens a lack of faith for an internal commander-led justice system for cases of military sexual assault, saying it “remains plagued with distrust.”
Senator Gillibrand found in a review of 107 case files provided by the DOD that instances of sexual assault against spouses of service members and civilian women near military bases are being left out of public records. Furthermore, the senator’s analysis of these files found that punishments for sexual assault offenders were largely too lenient or lacking altogether. A shockingly low 20 percent of cases went to trial, and only 10 percent of all cases resulted in sexual assault conviction with penalties of dishonorable discharge or confinement. These findings starkly contradict the Pentagon’s assertion that the commander-led justice system currently exercised for cases of military sexual assault will lead to tough punishment of service members accused of sex crimes.
“It’s frustrating because you look at the facts in these cases and you see witnesses willing to come forward, getting the medical exam and either eventually withdrawing their case or the investigators deciding that her testimony wasn’t valid or believable,” Gillibrand said.
Of the files reviewed in the report, 32 percent of reports of sexual assault were filed by civilian women assaulted by servicemen. A Department of Defense spokeswoman claimed that the department doesn’t have the authority to include civilian reports in its surveys.
“We kept hearing how previous reforms were going to protect victims, and make retaliation a crime,” said Gillibrand, referring to promises that were made during hearings for the Military Justice Improvement Act, championed by Gillibrand and blocked by Senate twice last year. “Yet there has been zero progress to reduce retaliation. The rate hasn’t budged since 2012,” Gillibrand continued.
“Enough is enough. Incremental progress at best just isn’t good enough when the problem undermining the readiness of the military is this deep. The men and women of our military deserve a system of justice worthy of their sacrifice,” Gillibrand said.
Media Resources: Gillibrand.gov Press Release 5/4/15; 5/1/15; Huffington Post 5/4/15; Feminist Newswire 12/12/14