Thursday, November 7, 2013

Military sexual assaults on the rise

Posted By on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 4:27 PM

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Yesterday, the Pentagon released data showing that 3,553 complaints of sexual assault were made to the Department of Defense between October 2012 and June 2013 — a roughly 50 percent increase from that same time period a year before. And that number — which includes sexual assaults by civilians on service members, and vice versa — pales in comparison to separate numbers that come out of an annual survey of active-duty soldiers. The most recent of those surveys found that 26,000 people in the military were assaulted in 2011. It was 19,000 in 2010, reports the New York Times.

Suffice it to say that there's a whole lot of unwanted sodomy, rape and touching occurring among the uniformed. (Sexual harassment is tracked separately.) And, generally, it's an underreported act, so you know there's more. To that end, there are a few bills working their way through Congress with varying chances of seeing President Obama's pen — all championed by female Democrats — reports the Times.

The defense bill that is set to come to the Senate floor this month includes various changes to the military justice system. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, is to offer an amendment that would take sexual assault cases outside the military chain of command and give military prosecutors, rather than accusers’ commanders, the power to decide which cases to try. Pentagon leaders are strongly opposed to Ms. Gillibrand’s amendment.

Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, is pushing legislation that does not go as far. Supported by the Pentagon and Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the measure would strip commanders of their ability to overturn jury verdicts and mandate dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault. But it would keep control of court-martial proceedings within the chain of command.

Another measure offered this week by Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, would exempt victims of sexual assault from having to testify at what the military calls Article 32 pretrial hearings, which can include cross-examinations of victim that are so intense they frighten many victims from coming forward.

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