Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released the following statement today after the Defense Department released its annual report on sexual assaults in the military. Gillibrand will be introducing legislation next week to remove decision making from the chain of command, which is the step necessary to create real accountability for assailants and justice for victims.
“Today’s report on the increased number of sexual assaults in the military is alarming. Despite pledges of zero tolerance from the military, and a number of positive steps that were taken last year by the Armed Services Committee, this report provides troubling evidence that we are going in the wrong direction.
“Rather than arresting a crisis of 19,000 reports in 2011, the scourge of assaults increased to an unacceptable 26,000 in 2012. Equally as troubling is the fact that we did not see a tangible increase in the number of servicemembers who felt comfortable enough that justice would be served without retaliation to report the crime committed against them. The fact remains too many servicemembers are afraid of retaliation, 47% according to the Defense Department, and there isn’t a climate where they feel they can get justice in the system.
“We must do more and we must do it now. While the changes proposed in the report is a small step forward, we need real reform that takes decision making over these cases outside of the chain of command which is the step necessary to create real accountability for assailants and justice for victims. I will urge my colleagues to support me in this effort when I introduce legislation next week.
“The issue of sexual violence in the military is not new. And it has been allowed to go on in the shadows for far too long. “Too often, women and men have found themselves in the fight of their lives not in the theater of war – but in their own ranks, among their own brothers and sisters, and ranking officers, in an environment that enables sexual assault.
“Our best, brightest, and bravest join our armed forces for all the right reasons – to serve our country, protect our freedom, and keep America safe. The United States has the best military in the world and the overwhelmingly vast majority of our brave men and women serving in uniform do so honorably and bravely. But there is also no doubt that we have men and women in uniform who are committing acts of sexual violence and should no longer be allowed to serve.
“Congress would be derelict in its duty of oversight if we just shrugged our shoulders at these 26,000 sons and daughters…husbands and wives…mothers and fathers…and did nothing. We simply have to do better by them.”