FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2017
*** STATEMENT ***
PROTECT OUR DEFENDERS JOINS SENATOR GILLIBRAND, SURVIVORS, AND ACTIVISTS TO DEMAND ACTION ON MILITARY JUSTICE REFORMS
Washington, D.C. – Today, former Chief Prosecutor of the United States Air Force and President of Protect Our Defenders Col (ret.) Don Christensen joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a group of bipartisan Senators, Military Sexual Assault survivors, and advocates to re-introduce the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). As scandal after scandal has demonstrated, the military is wholly unable to address the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment in its ranks. Col Christensen called on Congress to fix systemic flaws in the military justice system that harms service personnel, military readiness, and the American public.
“For over 25 years, the Pentagon has insisted they have a zero tolerance policy for sexual assault, rape, and sexual harassment. Decades of scandals have disproved these claims, and the most recent data proves conclusively that the military is failing to live up to their declarations of zero tolerance. Last year, there were over 4,600 unrestricted reports of sexual assault and rape in the military — an all-time high. Even in the rare cases where survivors report, 98% of the time their assailant is not convicted,” said Col Christensen. “This is not zero tolerance nor is it a successful system. It is time for the Senate to finally say enough is enough and pass the Military Justice Improvement Act.”
The bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act would remove the decision over whether to prosecute serious crimes from the military chain-of-command and give it to independent, trained military prosecutors. This legislation would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes like sexual assault, and remove the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault describe in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them.
“Congress should finally be out of excuses to continue protecting the status quo that harms our service members and protects predators,” said Senator Gillibrand.“How much longer do we need to wait for Congress to do the right thing when the facts about sexual assault in the military remain the same? It is unacceptable that Congress has allowed this utter lack of accountability and transparency to continue. The Military Justice Improvement Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes like sexual assault and remove the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault describe in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them. I urge all of my colleagues who want to do something to combat sexual violence in our society to join me in cosponsoring this bipartisan bill to create a justice system worthy of the sacrifice of our service members. To do less is to knowingly perpetuate a failed system.”
The need for systemic reforms is clear, and the time to act is now. A recent USA Today investigation found that since 2013, military investigators have documented at least 500 cases of serious misconduct among its generals, admirals, and senior civilians; of these, almost half involve personal or ethical lapses. And the failures of military discipline and ability to translate disciplinary action into civilian language were on full display at the tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas after the Air Force failed to flag the shooter as banned from buying weapons following his conviction of domestic violence crimes in a military court and serving time in a military prison.