Washington, DC – Today, the Pentagon announced the formation of a civilian-led commission to address the epidemic of military sexual assault. The commission will have 90 days to compile its recommendations and will report directly to President Biden. The civilian-led Chair, Lynn Rosenthal, who has dedicated much of her life to issues of gender-based violence, will choose the staff and members.
Last April, President Biden announced his support for empowering independent military prosecutors and the creation of a commission following a question from Protect Our Defenders Founder and CEO Nancy Parrish. This is the first time that a Commander-in-Chief has supported fundamental reform to a broken justice system. With continued resistance from military leadership to address a long-standing culture of sexual assault, the President’s support is vital in implementing real change.
The formation of the commission comes on the heels of a recent RAND report, which found that sexual assaults and harassment in a single year were associated with 10,000 service members leaving the military within 28 months, as well as an independent investigation describing a permissive environment of sexual assault and harassment at Fort Hood.
Col. Don Christensen (ret.), the former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“A civilian-led commission reporting directly to the President is an important step in the right direction. We must fix a bureaucratic military justice system that fails to hold sex offenders accountable and is destroying thousands of careers each year. A professional and impartial justice system will help create a healthy climate for all who serve. In order to be truly effective, the committee must remain independent of senior active duty officers.
“Despite tens of thousands of sexual assaults each year and countless broken promises, military leadership has failed time and time again to combat the epidemic of sexual assault plaguing its ranks. The problem only continues to grow worse. We cannot continue to rely on a conflicted chain of command. Fundamental reform is the clear answer. We’re hopeful that this new commission moves the needle toward a justice system that our service members deserve.”
Nancy Parrish, Founder and CEO of Protect Our Defenders, released the following statement:
“For too long, survivors of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination have suffered. Our brothers and sisters have been retaliated against instead of supported. The cost to the lives and careers of our service members is staggering. This is an important step by President Biden and Secretary Austin to fix military culture and a conflicted justice system, but it is only the beginning.
“Protect Our Defenders thanks President Biden for his support of military survivors and giving them a fair shot at justice by the establishment of this Commission and his support to bring the military court system into the 21st century. Our service members and the American people have been let down far too many times with empty promises of ‘zero tolerance.’ Military brass has failed to address the crisis and it is past time for real reform.”
PBS News Hour: U.S. military grapples with a rising epidemic of sexual assault in its ranks: https://www.pbs.org/
RAND Report: Odds of Leaving Military Double After Sexual Assault:
USA Today: Panel blasts Fort Hood leaders, Army after disappearance, death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen; 14 fired or suspended: https://www.
Forbes: Joe Biden Says He Would Take A Hard Line On Military Sexual Assault: https://www.forbes.com/sites/
CNN: Full Question from Protect Our Defenders CEO Nancy Parrish: https://twitter.com/