Military Justice Improvement Act: Challenging The Military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Stance On Sexual Assault

Image courtesy of Saucy Salad

Image courtesy of Saucy Salad

Recently, we at Lipstick and Politics shared an infographic detailing statistics on women serving in the military.One of the most shocking details, for me, was the statement that “military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq”. Add to that the fact that the vast majority of rapes go unreported, and it’s a devastating scenario for many women and men serving our country. They choose to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect others and are violated not by foreign enemies, but by their supposed comrades-in-arms.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand 3

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

For far too long, many incidents of sexual assault have gone unreported because the victims must make their reports along their chain of command. In most cases, victims felt nothing would be done or that they would suffer more from the fallout of their report than it was worth to seek justice. Recently, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) S.967. The Military Justice Improvement Act “will be offered as an amendment when the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is debated on the full Senate floor, which is expected sometime later this month.” If passed, this Act would “move the decision whether to prosecute any crime punishable by one year or more in confinement to independent, trained, professional military prosecutors outside of the victim’s current chain of command.” The hope is that by bringing in outside authorities, victims will feel more comfortable reporting incidents of assault.


Senator Rand Paul

There has been an outpouring of bipartisan support for this legislation; in fact, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) held a joint press conference with Senator Gillibrand to voice his support for the measure. As Paul noted, how many of us, if we were sexually assaulted, would be expected to make a report to our boss before contacting anyone else? That seems totally illogical, yet that is what victims of assault are expected to do within the current military justice system. For decades, leaders within the military have acknowledged this miscarriage of justice and have pledged to make things right, and yet very little progress has been made. We at L&P will continue to follow Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to get the Military Justice Improvement Act passed and report any updates as they happen. For far too long, military personnel have been victimized not only by their assailants but by the lack of effort to punish the perpetrators. It’s time their voices were heard.