Obama Calls for One-Year Review of Military’s Response to Sexual Assault


President Obama issued a call on Friday for a one-year review of how the military handles sexual assault cases. It was greeted with cautious optimism from victims’ advocates in Congress, who said that more urgent reform is still needed.

Obama said he has instructed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey to report to him by December 1, 2014 with a “full-scale review of their progress” on improving sexual assault prevention and response. If he is not satisfied with that progress, Obama said in a statement, then his administration “will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks.”

Obama specifically praised Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) for calling attention to the urgent need for reform, and for contributing to the reforms that are in this year’s defense bill.

But the defense bill did not include the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), the reform Gillibrand and other victims’ advocates say is most urgently needed—letting an independent prosecutor, not military commanders, decide whether to prosecute sexual assault cases. To that end, Gillibrand introduced MJIA as a stand-alone bill to be voted on next year.

Both Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), who sponsored a companion bill, the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP Act), that was reintroduced in the House in April, and Gillibrand said Friday that they looked forward to working with the president and defense secretary on the issue, but that they would keep fighting to remove prosecutions from the chain of command.

“I do not want to wait another year to enact the one reform survivors have asked for in removing commanders with no legal training and conflicts of interest from the decision of whether or not to prosecute a rape or sexual assault,” Gillibrand said in a statement.

“The president made it clear that he demands a fair and just military judicial system for service members where punishments fit the crime,” said Speier. “I believe that this requires leaving legal decisions to legal experts.”

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  • fiona64

    This is excellent news. I have written before about how I got a letter of reprimand for telling the soldier who was *commiting frottage after backing me in to a corner* to get the f*** away from me … the chain of command treated this stuff as a joke almost 20 years ago when the incident took place, and still does.

    The one bright spot in the whole thing was that, after that soldier left the unit, the JAG officer brought the unit’s copy of the LoR to my desk, tore it up in front of me and said “This bullshit never happened.” He had been infuriated that the soldier was given a pass and was allowed to use “she told me to get the f*** away from her” as a defense.

    Feh.

    • cjvg

      What were they reprimanding YOU for?
      I’m not from the US, (our soldiers have a union and this could never happen) and have a hard time imagining what they could possibly reprimand you for (after all it would be his word against Yours, exactly how rapist get away with their deeds all the time)

      • fiona64

        Because i told him to get the f**k away from me, that was considered using “inappropriate language in a professional environment.”

        When he came into my boss’s office for something after I filed charges, she laughed uproariously and said “Oh, Sergeant O., are you coming in here to sexually harass me?” It was treated as a huge joke … and my assailant got away with it.

        • cjvg

          So in others words; they not only dismissed your complaint of harassment as non existent, but then decided that his complaint that you told him to get the f*ck away from you must be factual?

          So did they ever explain why you would be saying that to him out of the blue? Does their acceptance of the fact that you actually said those words not confirm that sexual harassment was taking place at that moment, this is very rage inducing I must say.
          So if you would have fought of a rapist they would reprimand you for fighting?

          Seems to me that the military brass is bending over backwards to make (sexual) harassment an accepted and well practiced “occupation” within the ranks.

          • fiona64

            Oh, I freely admitted that I told him to get the f*ck away from me, because that was part of the defense he claimed. When I was asked, I said that absolutely I had, and plenty loud, because he was rubbing his crotch all over me in the mail room. (BTW, no one came to even see what was going on.)

            This was one of the most screwed-up commands I’d ever seen in my 16 years as a DoD civilian; the staff administrator (the one who thought it was funny to joke about my case) would give people drill points for doing her favors … all kinds of stuff. I had never worked for a Reserve unit before, and it confirmed every nasty thing I’d ever heard said by the active duty folks about how lazy and political the Reserves were. it was disgusting. The soldier got a company-grade Article 15, which is a non-judicial punishment that does not go with him in his personnel jacket. In other words, a slap on the wrist for forcibly dry-humping me in the headquarters building.

            Anyone who wonders why I left the DoD after so many years is told that story.

          • cjvg

            Jeesh what a sick bunch of morons. Sometimes I hear/read these stories and wonder if I just had a sheltered life. To me this is just so disturbing it is hard to put into words. It is not even so much the fact this happens, but the fact that these incidents are so cavalierly dismissed as irrelevant and of no concern really get me
            Sure there were some incidents of sexism, groping or patronizing but nothing like this, and it was never dismissed like this either.
            America does seem to be quite backwards on these matters and I believe it is getting worse (much worse) and worry about this.
            By the time I started working here I was at a level were a complaint does not get dismissed as irrelevant, so I never personally experienced it but I heard (and addressed) plenty of remarks that are infuriating.