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Grassley: Improve justice for victims of sexual assault in the military

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley

WASHINGTON – Arguing that “we’re past the point of tinkering with the current system,” Senator Chuck Grassley on Thursday worked to build bipartisan support for the Military Justice Improvement Act in advance of a vote of 55 to 45 by senators which defeated the bill on a procedural motion that required three-fifths of the votes for passage.

The legislation sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand with Grassley as an original co-sponsor, would have empowered victims to come forward by taking the judicial process for sexual assault cases outside the chain of command.

The proposed reform would move the decision about whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors. Thirty-seven crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going Absent Without Leave, would be excepted and remain within the chain of command. A companion measure is pending in the House of Representatives.

“We’ve had promises from military leaders for years and years about tackling the problem of sexual assault within the current system, but the problem isn’t getting better. The current system has a deterrent effect on reporting sexual assault, and if sexual assault cases aren’t reported, they can’t be prosecuted,” Grassley said. “Something as serious and life-altering as sexual assault requires bold action. And when young people make the commitment to serve their country in uniform and put themselves in harm’s way to defend and protect America’s freedoms, they deserve to know their rights will be protected, including access to justice.”

Last fall, the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services, known as DACOWITS, voted overwhelmingly in support of every component of the Military Justice Improvement Act. This committee was created in 1951 by the Secretary of Defense and includes civilian and retired military women and men to provide advice and recommendations on matters and policies relating to the recruitment and retention, treatment, employment, integration, and well-being of highly qualified professional women in the Armed Forces.

Grassley said that sexual assault in the military isn’t a military matter but a law enforcement matter, and that the Military Justice Improvement Act does justice to the U.S. military code of honor, which is based on integrity and fidelity to the rule of law.

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