Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley joined with his colleagues Monday in voting for legislation that would bring some reforms to how the U.S. military prosecutes sexual assault cases. The bill is watered down somewhat from a measure that was rejected by the Senate last week that would have made much more radical changes.
Grassley notes, the Pentagon brass feared the original bill would weaken key military doctrines. “The argument by the opponents of it was, ‘Well, it’s the military, you’ve got to do things within the chain of command,'” Grassley says. “We’ve found that about 60% of sexual assaults (in the military) are not reported because they think there’ll be retaliation.”
The bill that passed would let victims offer input about whether the case should go before a civilian or a military court. It would also ban those accused of sexual assault from using evidence of their good military character at trial as a way to lessen the charges, what’s called the “good soldier defense.”
Grassley says the measure had unanimous support, passing the Senate 97-0, and heads now to the House. “When you volunteer to defend this country, everybody in the unit ought to have each other’s back,” Grassley says. “Your enemy ought to be outside of the United States military, not within it.” A report from the Pentagon says more sexual assault cases are being reported within the military in recent years, with some 26,000 cases reported in 2012.