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Women in Congress Take On Sexual Assault in the Military

Women are saying “enough” to rape.

This month, female senators on both sides of the aisle are taking action to end the endemic of sexual assaults in the military and its rape culture.

The Pentagon reported that in 2012 alone, around 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted, a shocking 37% increase from the 19,000 assaulted in 2010. Even more horrifying, is the small number reported. Only 10% of those were even brought to trial.

This is a stark contradiction to the supposed “Zero Tolerance Policy” of the Department of Defense on sexual assault.

Sexual assault in the military has occurred for decades. Perhaps one of the most widely publicized instances was the Tailhook scandal in 1991, during which drunken Navy pilots sexually assaulted 83 female and 7 male peers. Recent incidents have included:1. an Air Force officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs being charged with sexual battery; 2. and reports of a sergeant at West Point video-taping female cadets in the bathroom or shower without their consent. All of this has inspired a bipartisan push among female lawmakers for the DOD to take real action and to be held accountable.

Among the 7 women serving on the Armed Services Committee are: Senator Claire McCaskill, Senator Deb Fisher and Senator Kelly Ayotte. They have lifted the veil on sexual assault in the military and made it an issue in the national spotlight. This is the first time that women are the driving force of the discussion–especially in such a male dominated panel such as the ASC.

The Global Justice Center applauds the efforts of women in Congress that are taking action against the culture of sexual assault that is constantly concealed by the US military. When it is more likely that a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan will be raped by a fellow service member than killed in the line of enemy fire, we must acknowledge that there is a serious problem that is causing emotional and physical harm to thousands of women (and men). The women bravely sacrificing for our country deserve to serve without fear of sexual assault, and action must be taken in order to ensure this.

Many women-authored bills floating around Congress are promising and progressive, but the Military Justice Improvement Act of Sen. KIrsten Gillibrand (D-NY), seemed to have the most potential of passing. Instead, the ASC struck it down this week, though Gillibrand suggested that she will reintroduce it in the fall. Her bill suggests taking the power away from commanders to decide which cases to try. Instead, military prosecutors to do so, enabling women and men to report sex crimes without the fear of reprisal from their seniors and peers. The Military Justice Improvement Act also seeks to ensure that an unbiased panel would be in charge of the decision for military assault crimes.

The Global Justice Center wants to redefine democracy to a governing body which includes an equal voice for women. Currently, women make up 51% of the world’s population but only make up less than 20% of governments. The Global Justice Center advocates for women in leadership roles across all institutions. The issue of sexual assault in the military is a clear demonstration of the negative effects of excluding women from decision making bodies, both within the military justice system and the United States government.