Speech Text Copied Below with Video Available HERE
Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bipartisan amendment to create an unbiased military justice system following more than two decades of failure by the Department of Defense to address the crisis of sexual assault in the military. Despite incremental reforms, the DoD reported an average of 52 new cases of sexual assault each day and admitted zero progress in curbing the rampant retaliation against those who do report: 62 percent of servicewomen who reported an assault experienced some form of retaliation in 2014. Despite legislation that criminalized retaliation, the Pentagon cannot point to a single example of a serious disciplinary action taken against those who retaliate.
Senator Gillibrand filed the measure as an amendment (SA 1578) to the National Defense Authorization Act to reverse the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault describe in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them due to the bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command’s current sole decision-making power over whether cases move forward to a trial. This reform moves the decision whether to prosecute serious crimes to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors while leaving military crimes to the chain of command. The decision whether to prosecute 37 serious crimes uniquely military in nature, plus all crimes punishable by less than one year of confinement (Article 15, non-judicial punishment), would remain within the chain of command.
The full text of Gillibrand’s remarks from last week on the Senate floor are copied below and video is available here.
“Mr. President, the Senate needs to have a vote on this amendment.
“Over the last few years, Congress has forced the military to make incremental changes to address the crisis of sexual assault and after two decades of complete failure, and lip service to ‘zero tolerance’ – the military now says, essentially, ‘Trust us this time, we got it’
“They spin the data, hoping nobody will dig below the surface of their top lines because when you do, you find that:
“The assault rate is exactly where it was in 2010.
“We still see an average of 52 new cases every single day, and three out of four service-member survivors still don’t think it’s worth the risk of coming forward to report the crimes committed against them.
“One in seven victims was assaulted by someone in their chain of command.
“In 60 percent of cases, a supervisor or unit leader is responsible for sexual harassment or gender discrimination.
“It’s no surprise then, that one in three survivors believe that reporting would hurt their career.
“For those who do report, they are more likely than not to experience retaliation.
“Despite a much-touted reform that made retaliation a crime, the DoD made zero progress on improving the 62 percent retaliation rate that we had in 2012.
“According to a Human Rights Watch report, the DoD cannot provide a single example of serious disciplinary action taken against those who retaliate.
“A sexual assault survivor is 12 times more likely to suffer retaliation than see their offender get convicted for a sex offense.
“And in my close review of 107 cases from the four largest military bases in the country, one for each service, I found that nearly half of those who did move forward and report, ended up dropping out.
“Survivors still have little faith in the system. Under any metric, the system remains plagued with distrust, and does not provide the fair and just process that survivors deserve.
“Simply put, the military has not held up to the standard posed by General Dempsey one year ago, when he said the Pentagon was on the clock.
“I urge my colleagues to hold the military to that higher standard. Let’s put these decisions into the hands of trained, seasoned prosecutors.
“Enough is enough with the spin, with the excuses, and with the promises. We must do the right thing and act.
“Thank you, and I yield the floor.”