Tomorrow’s Senate ASC Hearing on Military Sexual Assault

Tomorrow morning, the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on possible solutions to the military sexual assault crisis. I just called the Chairman and Ranking Member encouraging them to support S. 967, which is a necessary first step in providing victims of this specialized form of violent crime with access to the justice system. According to Roll Call, the Capitol Hill news site, S. 967 “removes the prosecution of all crimes punishable by one year or more in jail from the chain of command, except crimes that are uniquely military in nature. [S. 967 also] bars commanders from overturning convictions.”

The Invisible War, an outstanding documentary on military sexual assault, makes clear why removing these powers from commanders is so necessary: Commanders are entangled in a web of pressures that makes it virtually impossible to separate their duty to maintain military discipline (and, less honorably, the reputation of their unit) from the independent judicial responsibilities of a criminal prosecutor. In fact, many military “leaders” are implicated in such assaults. 25% of female servicemembers who fail to report rapes to their chain of command do so because the person in the chain to who they are supposed to report is the rapist.

Please consider calling the Senators with the following message (copied from a SWAN email):

“Thank you for holding this historic hearing on military sexual assault. We need you to reform the military justice system. The authority to prosecute violent crimes like sexual assault should rest with legal professionals. Please support Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill, S. 967.”

Senator Carl Levin, Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee
(202) 224-6221
Senator James Inhofe, Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
(202) 224-4721

I’m showing up bright and early tomorrow morning to sit in on the hearing, which begins at 9:30am. The list of testifiers includes the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the heads of all five armed services, top legal representatives from all five armed services, and members of civil society including Anu Baghwati of the Service Women’s Action Network.

I’m going to try my hand at simultaneously liveblogging (here) and live-tweeting at @jaylemeux. We’ll see how that goes.

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