Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has worked long and hard–and faced daunting opposition–fighting against the military’s sexual assault epidemic and culture of impunity. But, according to one Republican Congressman, Sen. Gillibrand’s plan is “certainly not an issue of sexual assault,” but rather a combination of sour grapes and a desire for attention.
Some of you may recall that Sen. Gillibrand tried to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) of 2013, which would have removed the decision to prosecute sexual assault and rape from the chain of command and put it into the hands of an impartial military lawyer. Unfortunately for Gillibrand, all amendments to the 2014 defense spending were dropped, due to annoying “partisan politics” or Republican intransigence and Democratic foldability.
Gillibrand’s MJIA, however, will have another chance when it comes to the Senate floor this March.
But there’s tons of opposition from both parties. Because Kirsten Gillibrand seriously needs to just calm down, am I right? I mean, she is getting way too emotional and hysterical and subjective when it comes to the whole rape in the military thing. Yes, the Pentagon itself estimated that there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault in 2012. Fine, that does seem like a lot. And the Pentagon also found that only 3,374 cases of sexual assault were reported. So, OK, there’s some under-reporting going on. And, yes, maybe something should be done. But Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act plan is just absurd! Her critics argue that the plan is unnecessary, too “extreme” and won’t be effective.
The MJIA, in fact, isn’t even about sexual assault. It’s all about Kirsten. Rep. Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican and co-chairman of the Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, said:
She seriously misrepresents the circumstances of the Defense Department, because she ignores the legislation that was passed…. I think at this point, it’s certainly not an issue of sexual assault, it’s just an issue of the senator wanting to promote her solution that has already lost. I think she’s getting a whole lot of attention for a debate that’s over.
Seriously, Kirsten. Turner is over it. Shouldn’t you be? What is so important about the chain of command any way? Well, under the chain of command status quo, a victim of rape or sexual assault reports the crime to his her or superior. This means the person deciding how to proceed with the case will know the person reporting the crime. If the perpetrator of the crime is in the same unit, which is the case for 25% of women and 27% of men who are victims of sexual assault, that means that the superior will know the perpetrator or, even worse, will actually be the perpetrator. In other words the current system makes it so you may have to report your rape to your rapist. And if you think the system doesn’t exactly encourage people to come forward, you’re right. It silences them. According to the Department of Defense, among the women who did not report experiencing unwanted sexual contact, “47% said fear of retaliation or reprisal prevented them from reporting. 43% heard about negative experiences from other victims who had reported. 50% thought nothing would be done.” And their fears were well-founded; 62% of the women who did report their assault experienced retaliation. So, an overwhelming majority of victims decide to stay silent. And the majority of those who make the brave and painful decision to report their rape or assault are punished for doing so. This system encourages silence at best–and revenge at worst.
Critics of the MJIA including, disappointingly, Sen. Claire McCaskill, who is even threatening to filibuster it, claim that it won’t help those who experience sexual assault in this military. That’s an interesting argument. But I think I’ll trust the opinions of the actual survivors of military sexual assault. Like Paula Coughlin, US Navy, who said:
It has to come out of the chain of command, because the chain of command has really become impotent. The chain of command is vested in protecting itself, and so often, the perpetrator of the assault is in the chain of command.
Or Sarah Plummer, US Marine :
Having someone within your direct chain of command handling the case, it just doesn’t make sense. It`s like your brother raping you and having your dad decide the case.
Or Trina McDonald, US Navy:
The people that were involved in my assaults were police personnel, security personnel, higher-ranking officers, the people that I would have gone to and reported.
Unsurprisingly, the MJIA has also been endorsed by several organizations consisting of and representing people who have actually served in the military, like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), Service Women’s Action Network, and Protect Our Defenders. But what is surprising is that even some military high-ups admit systemic failure. Like Commandant of the Marine Corps General James F. Amos who said, “Why wouldn’t female Marines come forward? Because they don’t trust us. They don’t trust the command. They don’t trust the leadership.”
As for the drastic and extreme nature of the bill–because, you know, a sexual assault epidemic should be met with mild solutions–somehow the plan is moderate, logical, obvious and sensible enough that it has garnered support from Senators from both parties. Get ready for this… Republicans Rand Paul and Ted Cruz actually agree with Gillibrand on this one. You may feel weird agreeing with people like Rand and Ted, I know I do. But politics makes strange bedfellows. So, let’s do what we can to push for the MJIA. You can sign this petition. And look here to see if your Senator is on board and if not, tweet them and call them and tell them to vote for the Military Justice Improvement Act!
An infographic and a way to tweet against rape in the military now!
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Katie Halper isn’t sure if Michael Turner honestly believes Kirsten Gillibrand is just doing this for attention or if he’s just saying that for attention. And she isn’t sure which is worse.