Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand released the following statement tonight after news reports of data to be released tomorrow by the Pentagon in their annual survey on sexual assaults:
“For a year now we have heard how the reforms in the previous Defense bill were going to protect victims, and make retaliation a crime. It should be a screaming red flag to everyone when 62% of those who say they reported a crime were retaliated against – nearly two-thirds – the exact same number as last year. It is no wonder that still less than 3 out of 10 victims feel they can report their assaults, and the percentage of those brave men and women who had enough faith in the system to put their name on that report actually dropped this year.
“And let me be clear, an estimate of 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact a year in our military, or 55 cases a day, is appalling, and remains at 2010 levels. There is no other mission in the world for our military where this much failure would be allowed. Enough is enough, last December the President said he would give the military and previous reforms a year to work and it is clear they have failed in their mission.
“For perspective, while the DOD prepared their one-year review for the President, Col. Don Christensen (Ret.), the Chief Prosecutor for the Air Force decided to step down this year after 23 years of service because the system is so broken. As Col. Christensen (Ret.) said yesterday:
‘As a military prosecutor, I have personally seen the abuse and injustice victims of sexual assault face in the military. If you really knew what victims have to go through when they walk into a military courtroom; walk by their co-workers, their bosses, their commanders, their first sergeants, their squad leaders; all sitting behind her rapist; you would understand why we need to change the way we do things in the military.
‘At first, I truly believed as the Chief Prosecutor of the Air Force I could help fix the broken military justice system from the inside. This changed as I watched Commanders persecute victims, while failing to prosecute predators. I realized that in order to see substantial change, I would need to leave the Air Force, breaking a military tradition that has been a part of my family for over 150 years.
‘The ineffective, broken system of justice undermines the military I love. For the past two decades Leaders have spoken of “zero tolerance.” Yet, year after year, decade after decade the scale of justice continues to lean in favor of the accused. The rapist boss should not determine the fate of a victim’s case.’