Senator Chuck Grassley is part of a bipartisan coalition pushing to overhaul how the military justice system handles allegations of sexual assault.
“There’s a lot of pressure, of course, from the Pentagon to oppose this reform and that’s even prudent in a lot of cases,” Grassley says, “but when we’re talking about something as serious and life-altering as sexual assault, we cannot afford to wait any longer than we already have.”
The U.S. Senate has begun debate of a proposal that would no longer have military commanders decide whether sexual assault cases are prosecuted and, instead, have trained military lawyers make that decision.
“Taking prosecutions out of the hands of commanders and giving them to professional prosecutors who are independent of the chain of command will help ensure impartial justice for the men and women of our armed forces,” Grassley says. “It’s the right thing to do and it improve morale and readiness. It protects those who volunteer to protect our country and protect our freedoms and I urge the Senate to be bold and to join this effort.”
A Pentagon a study released this spring indicated soldiers reported about 3000 cases of sexual assault in 2012, but only 300 were prosecuted.
“The men and women serving this country deserve bold action to solve this problem — not in a few years or a little bit of time, but right now,” Grassley says.
Grassley spoke at a news conference Wednesday that featured other senators as well as members of the military who have been victims of sexual assault.
Critics say the proposal Grassley supports would undermine the chain of command. An alternative proposal would allow commanders to decide whether sexual assault allegations are investigated, but it would create a new, higher level of review of those decisions and strip commanders of the ability to dismiss convictions based on a “good soldier” defense. In one high-profile case early this year, a general tossed out a military jury’s sexual assault conviction against a fighter pilot and released him from prison.