Protect Our Defenders News Blog


***PRESS RELEASE*** Protect Our Defenders Responds to Senators Blocking Vote to Protect Sexual Assault Victims

August 13, 2018


Protect Our Defenders Responds to Senators Blocking Vote to Protect Sexual Assault Victims

New National Defense Authorization Act to Require Review of whether Military is Informing Victims of Sexual Assault and Rape of Their Right to Request Case be Prosecuted by Civilian Authorities rather than Chain of Command

WASHINGTON, D.C.– On Monday, the President signed FY19 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The final NDAA contains a number of provisions that are key to reforming the military justice system and enhancing protections of victims of domestic violence and military sexual assault and rape. The provisions include: creating a specific offense criminalizing domestic violence; establishing a uniform requirement for the reporting of the final command action for the disposition of sexual assault offenses; studying the foreseeability of expanding special victim counsel representation to victims of domestic violence; and mandating a security clearance review for general and flag officers found to have committed sexual assault, sexual harassment and frauds against the United States.
Protect Our Defenders supported all of the provisions and believes victims of domestic violence have been too often ignored by military leadership. Noticeably absent from the FY19 NDAA is the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). For the third year in a row, the MJIA–which would provide for the comprehensive reform of the military justice system–had its vote blocked.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United State Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“Sexual assault and harassment scandals rocking the military undermine its ability to function and to recruit and retain the best-qualified men and women. We are extremely disappointed Senate leadership did not allow a vote to reform a broken military justice system that is costing us our best and brightest. Reports of sexual assault and harassment in the military are on the rise, prosecution rates and convictions have plummeted while Congress allows an inherently biased system controlled by generals with no legal training to remain unchecked. Each year that Senate leadership obstructs reform, it denies justice for thousands of victims.
“Despite the refusal to allow a vote on reforming the military justice system, we are pleased Senator Gillibrand and Representative Jackie Speier continue to be successful in their efforts to modernize the military justice reforms through incremental steps. We are especially pleased the House Armed Services Committee is requiring the Pentagon Inspector General to review the military’s compliance with the requirement that the military inform victims of sexual assault and rape of their right to request their case be prosecuted by civilian authorities rather than the chain of command. After speaking with dozens of survivors who had not been advised of this right, POD brought this issue to the attention of Representative Speier and Representative Mike Turner. We are thankful for their efforts to ensure the Pentagon follow this legal requirement that empowers survivors.”