Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, introduced the bipartisan I Am Vanessa Guillén Act alongside Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), John Carter (R-TX), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Jason Crow (D-CO), and Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (D-CA) in honor of the late Vanessa Guillén and survivors of military sexual assault. In recent months, public attention has turned to the epidemic of military sexual assault following the tragic murder of Vanessa Guillén and outcry from active duty servicemembers. The new bill looks to move prosecutorial authority outside of the chain of command for sexual assault and sexual harassment cases, require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on how various military branches handle missing servicemembers, and make sexual harrasment a crime within the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United State Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“The Pentagon deliberately misled Congress to stop fundamental reform seven years ago. Ever since then it’s been empty promises and inaction, as our military loses its best and brightest and more families suffer unnecessarily. We need real reform that lasts long after the national spotlight fades. The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act is long overdue.
“Military brass has given us no reason to believe they will address the sexual assault epidemic in the military on their own. The time is now for Congress to act – our servicemembers cannot continue to wait. At Protect Our Defenders, we have long advocated for putting prosecutorial decisions in the hands of professionals, who will fairly represent survivors instead of sweeping their trauma under the rug. I hope our elected leaders recognize that protecting our servicemembers is not only the right thing to do, but will also enhance our national security.”
Protect Our Defenders (POD) – the only national organization solely dedicated to ending the epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military – has long advocated for fundamental reform of the military justice system by removing prosecutorial authority from the chain of command for non-military crimes such as rape and murder. Doing so would empower experienced military prosecutors and take a vital step towards removing the systemic barriers that survivors of military sexual assault face when coming forward to report crimes.
Earlier this year, POD launched a successful 2020 Presidential Candidate Pledge, in which 19 of 20 of candidates committed to fundamental reform – including Democratic Nominee Joe Biden, Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris, Former Governor Bill Weld, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
CNN: Democratic candidates back plan to change how military investigates sexual assault allegations: https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/
Forbes: Joe Biden says he would take a hard line on military sexual assault: https://www.forbes.com/sites/
USA Today: Fort Hood soldier’s death speaks online outcry: ‘The military hasn’t had their #MeToo movement yet’: https://www.usatoday.com/
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 https://facebook.com/