FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 7, 2021
Congress Announces Agreement on Transformative Military Justice Reforms to Address Military Sexual Assault Epidemic
Protect Our Defenders applauds Senator Gillibrand, Representative Speier, and the bipartisan coalition for legislation to combat the military’s longstanding sexual assault crisis
Washington, DC (December 7, 2021) – Ten years ago, Protect Our Defenders was founded to reform the world’s largest workforce and combat the military’s longstanding sexual assault epidemic. Today’s legislation will for the first time empower independent military prosecutors to determine whether those accused of sexual assault, rape, murder, domestic violence and seven other serious offenses will be prosecuted. Today’s agreement to remove prosecution decisions from commanders represents an important, but not complete victory for military sexual assault survivors – and yet it is still the most significant military justice reform in our nation’s history.
Other critical provisions in the 2022 NDAA include:
- Significant sentencing reform, including judge-alone sentencing using sentencing guidelines
- Enhanced victim’s rights, including the right to know administrative actions taken against an offender
- Criminalizing sexual harassment
- Independent investigations of sexual harassment complaints
- Requirement that the Pentagon track retaliation
- Enhanced policies for tracking missing servicemembers
- Reform the military investigative agencies
- Required assessment of racial disparities in the military justice system and discipline
The reforms announced today come on the heels of a military sexual survivors led campaign to secure the support of President Biden and ensure that no rape victim’s boss is able to decide whether they get justice or not.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“Today is the culmination of years of advocacy from military sexual assault survivors, their families and supporters. Military sexual assault survivors took on the world’s largest employer with the world’s largest budget and won a major victory. The provisions included in this year’s NDAA are the most transformative military justice reforms in our nation’s history. This is what happens when we champion survivors and ensure their voices are heard.
“Empowering independent military prosecutors represents a momentous step forward in addressing the military sexual assault crisis. We thank Senator Gillibrand, Representative Speierand all those in Congress who have fought on behalf of our brave men and women who serve our nation to make this historic legislation possible.
“While these reforms are a critical first step toward ensuring justice for all servicemembers — our work is far from done. Because commanders retain convening authority and associated powers such as selecting jury ‘court members,’ commanders still will wield significant influence over court martial proceedings. Such influence erodes the independence of the Special Victims Prosecutor and fails to address the concerns of the survivor community that conflicted commanders still have too much influence over the military justice process.
“Protect Our Defenders will keep fighting for our servicemembers to make sure their voices are heard, reforms are implemented properly and pushing for the remaining changes that are needed to create a truly independent justice system.”
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is the pre-eminent national human rights organization dedicated to ending sexual violence, victim retaliation, misogyny, sexual prejudice, and racism in the military and combating a culture that has allowed it to persist. 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/ProtectOurDefenders or follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ProtectRDfnders.