Sexual Assault Cases to Remain in the Military Chain of Command

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The persistent problem of sexual assault in the military has been a major issue on Capitol Hill this month. The question at hand is how to compel the Pentagon to better deal with sexual assault in the uniformed services.

Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, proposed that special prosecutors deal with these crimes outside of the traditional chain of command. A recent Pentagon report found that within the chain of command, 62% of sexual assault victims believe they faced some kind of retaliation after coming forward. 

But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says an outside accountability for sexual assault cases is too disruptive to work.

The compromise this week in the Senate Armed Services Committee would trigger an automatic review of cases when a commander overrules a military lawyer's advice to prosecute sexual assault cases. It is also believed that the senate will include a measure to end the practice of military commanders having the power to nullify verdicts in sexual assault cases.

Susan Burke, an attorney who represents military personnel who have been sexually assaulted, weighs in on the decision and what it means for victims.


Susan Burke

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [1]

chris thomas from stillater, oklahoma

The mischaracterization of the military's ability to punish sex offenders in its ranks is egregious. I served 12 years in the military including 8 years as an officer. In every military training I attended or was responsible for conducting solders were made very aware of their ability to seek justice both within the military criminal justice system and in civilian courts. If the ability of the millitary to punish sex offenders were taken away this would actully give sex offense victims in the military less ability to seek justice not more. As it is now, victims in the military have more options to pursue justice than civilians. I agree that a new process to review commanders' ability to dismiss charges against service members may need to be put in place, however. If victims chose the military avenue charges on their abusers should not be dismissed without legal cause. No commander I have ever had would let a sex offender go free. It is amazing to me that there are any commanders out there who would.

Jun. 13 2013 10:31 AM

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