FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 16, 2015
*** STATEMENT ***
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS CALLS ON PRESIDENT OBAMA TO SUPPORT SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS AFTER VOTE ON MILITARY JUSTICE IMPROVEMENT ACT
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congress once again failed servicemembers who are survivors of rape and sexual assault in the military. Although a majority of Americans favor an independent and impartial justice system for our troops, the Senate voted against including the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2016. This common sense, bipartisan legislation would remove the decision to prosecute rape and sexual assault cases from a conflicted and often-biased chain of command, and put it into the hands of trained, independent military prosecutors.
Today, Former Air Force Chief Prosecutor and Protect Our Defenders President Col Don Christensen (ret.) released the following statement:
“Sadly, there are still many Senators willing to give the Pentagon a pass despite decades of empty promises and phantom progress. Those opposed to a fair justice system for our troops and their families are listening to the same generals that were against gay Americans serving their country or allowing women to serve equally. President Obama has told every servicemember who has experienced sexual assault that he’s ‘got their back.’ It’s time to prove it. The dysfunctional and unfair justice system is destroying the careers and often the lives of tens of thousands of great troops every year.”
A report conducted by RAND Corporation estimated that in 2014 alone more than 20,000 servicemembers were raped or sexually assaulted, and that victims continue to distrust the current system: 1 in 3 victims believed reporting would hurt their career, the process would be unfair, or that nothing would be done, and 1 in 4 said they feared retaliation.
Additional reports over the past few months have highlighted the military’s ongoing failure to confront the reality that the military justice system is broken, allowing the sexual assault crisis within the ranks to persist. Last month, Human Rights Watch released a 113-page report that found military victims who report their attacks are “12 times more likely to experience retaliation than to see their attacker convicted.” A report from Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) found high rates of assault against civilian women and military spouses — two survivor groups not included in Pentagon surveys.
President Obama’s one-year deadline for the military to show progress in addressing the epidemic of sexual assault on their own has long since passed; yet military leaders have failed to meaningfully address the issue.
Task and Purpose: The Military Justice Improvement Act Ensures Justice, Despite What Its Critics Say
Politico: The Debrief with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Human Rights Watch: Embattled: Retaliation against Sexual Assault Survivors in the US Military
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: Snapshot Review of Sexual Assault Report Files at the Four Largest U.S. Military Bases in 2013
New York Times: Reports of Sexual Assaults in Military on Rise
Associated Press: Sen. Gillibrand accuses Pentagon of withholding sex crimes info
About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders (POD) 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. POD provides pro bono casework and legal assistance to survivors. 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.