STATEMENT: Protect Our Defenders says Pentagon’s proposed changes still fall short
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2013
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS SAYS PENTAGON’S PROPOSED CHANGES STILL FALL SHORT OF FUNDAMENTAL REFORM
Washington DC - Today, the New York Times reported on proposed Pentagon changes to address the epidemic of military sexual assault.
Protect Our Defenders Executive Director and former Navy JAG Taryn Meeks released the following statement:
“Our men and women in uniform are looking to hear from the Pentagon that their military leaders have their backs. The first step in creating an independent and impartial military justice system, is giving the authority to decide whether to proceed to trial to military prosecutors – and not commanders. The Military Justice Improvement Act is the only amendment in the Senate that calls for this reform. There are 46 Senators publicly supporting the MJIA and we are very close to achieving justice for victims. This is an historic moment and we hope that all lawmakers will see this as the tipping point.
Protect Our Defenders supports changes to the military system that help victims of sexual assault seek justice. The new reforms announced by Secretary Hagel are good incremental changes but will not fix the broken military justice system. According to the 2012 SAPRO Report, 25% of victims indicated the offender is someone in their chain of command. Fifty percent of female victims stated they did not report the crime because they believed nothing would be done. Of those few who did report – 60% were retaliated against.
One of the proposed Pentagon changes reported by the New York Times would provide victims of sexual assault with their own legal representation. Protect Our Defenders has consistently advocated for this change and even filed an amicus brief to the military’s highest court in support of the Air Force’s Special Victim Counsel pilot program, which provides victims legal representation. The Army and Navy opposed our brief. We have repeatedly and publically called for victims to be protected through the reporting, investigative and court-martial process by an attorney who can represent and advocate for them. Although it is a positive step for the military to now appear to be moving in this direction, the right to representation must be codified by Congress to ensure it is a permanent change.
Sec. Hagel’s proposed changes would require all sexual assault cases be referred to the General or Admiral level. However, this change still preserves decision making within the chain of command. Nothing short of an independent, professional and impartial military justice system will end this national disgrace.”
New York Times: Pentagon Finishing Rules to Curb Sexual Assaults (August 7, 2013)
Politico: Decades behind: Sexual assault unchecked as Defense Department ducks reform (August 6, 2013)
Roll Call: Military Women Fear ‘Collateral Damage’ From Reporting Sexual Assault (August 6, 2013)
Washington Post: Gillibrand: Military commanders are ‘failing’ on sexual assault (July 30, 2013)
New York Times: An Escalating Fight Over Military Justice (July 29, 2013)
Associated Press: Kirsten Gillibrand Targets Military Sexual Assault Law (July 29, 2013)
Chicago Tribune: Editorial: The military’s enemy within (July 27, 2013)
USA Today: Military women say sexual assault and harassment remain (July 25, 2013)
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at http://facebook.com/
Protect Our Defenders partners with Attorney Susan Burke, Burke PLLC to advance lawsuits filed against the DoD and service academies for repeatedly ignoring rape, sexual assault and harassment, failing to prosecute perpetrators and retaliating against the victim.