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The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

The voice of De Anza since 1967.

La Voz News

    Rise in military sexual assault reveals systemic failure to prosecute cases

    Sexual assault in the military, long ignored by the media, has taken center stage as the Pentagon released a survey earlier this month estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010.

    The survey’s release came two days after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force, was arrested and charged with sexual battery for grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks.

    “This arrest speaks volumes about the status and effectiveness of the department’s efforts to address the plague of sexual assaults in the military,” said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

    When the person in charge of preventing sexual assault is blatantly caught and charged with sexual battery, we should not only be morally outraged but also demand comprehensive reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

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    Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, is planning to introduce legislation that would rewrite military law, transferring the authority to investigate and prosecute serious crimes from commanders to independent military prosecutors.

    If the bill is passed, victims of sexual assault would not be forced to report the crime to an aloof and vindictive boss, but instead have the option of reporting the crime to an independent prosecutor, ensuring that an impartial investigation would occur.

    Removing the commander from the prosecution would bring forward the scores of underreported sexual assault crimes of victims who fear retaliation.

    Currently, assailants are rarely held accountable and prosecuted for their crimes.

    According to the Pentagon survey, 3,374 assaults were reported in 2012, compared with 3,192 in 2011, suggesting the reluctance of victims to
    report incidents.

    It is all too clear that the majority of sexual assault victims fear retribution and do not report the attacks because of a lack of faith in the military judicial process.

    Perpetrators of sexual assault need to be brought to justice and commanders need to be held more accountable, which is why it is important Congress pass legislation that eliminates a commander’s ability to nullify a jury verdict.

    More importantly, the legislation would require commanders to provide written justification for lessening a sentence after a guilty verdict was issued in a court-martial.

    All too often military commanders have granted clemency to convicted sex offenders to preserve the individual’s image and reputation — it is time for this to change.

    The reforms in Congress would make it exceedingly difficult for sexual assault crimes to go unnoticed or ignored, and would restore the image of the armed forces as a bastion of integrity.

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