On the heels of a study released Monday that found the U.S. military does a poor job of investigating sexual assault cases, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is unveiling legislation today that would create an independent military justice system for sexual assault victims.
It’s called the Military Justice Improvement Act. “The legislation would remove prosectorial decisions from the chain of command,” Grassley says. “It would give the offices of the military chiefs of staff authority and discretion to establish courts, empanel juries and choose judges to hear sexual assault cases in military courts.”
This week’s inspector general’s report reviewed 500 military cases from last year that involved rape and sexual assault. It found flaws in the investigations 72-percent of the time. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, is co-sponsoring the legislation with Grassley, a Republican.
Grassley says the bi-partisan bill is about keeping the focus on the mission of the military. Grassley says, “Failing to crack down on corrosive culture or on individuals who use sexual violence as a means of personal power or gain will create lingering institutional problems that jeopardize morale and impact recruitment and retention of troops.”
Congress is working to bring about changes in how the military handles allegations of sexual assault after several scandals in recent months, where officers who were appointed to defend alleged victims were themselves accused of sexual crimes.
“The goal is to pass this reform with the annual defense authorization bill,” Grassley says. “That bill should be on the Senate floor maybe yet this month and if not this month, then I’d say early September,” as Congress is in recess during August. A federal report that came out in May found the number of cases of unwanted sexual contact in the military rose 37-percent last year — to nearly 26,000 cases.