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Posted: November 05, 2013

Does chain of command fit in military sex assault cases?



An amendment that would overhaul the military’s sexual assault policies just got hit with a potentially big roadblock.

New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says she has the support of 45 senators on a measure that would take the military chain of command OUT of the prosecution of sexual assault crimes. (Via YouTube / Kirsten E. Gillibrand)

The problem? 45 votes is a bit far from the 60 she just found out she’s probably gonna need. See, normally a bill like that would just need a 51-vote majority.

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But Michigan Democrat Carl Levin — who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee — thinks the vote will prove too controversial and end up needing 60 to avoid a filibuster. (Via Fora TV)

The idea behind taking the chain of command out of the process is so victims aren’t afraid of repercussions for reporting incidents of alleged sexual assault to their superiors.

Last year there were 4,000 such reports — and only 191 convictions.

VICTIM: “I reported it two different times to my squad leader, and he told me there was nothing he could do about it because I didn’t have proof.” (Via PBS)

And activists say there were more than 25,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact and sexual assault in 2012 — but that victims are often too scared to report them. Thing is — there’s actually not a lot of disagreement about whether the issue requires attention. 

“How many women and men are being raped and sexually assaulted? Are you friggin kidding me? Why is one and 10 going to trial and why is only 1 in 100 only resulting in conviction?” (Via ABC)

Hearings over the summer on the problem of military sexual assaults featured bipartisan outrage — and admissions from top military brass that more could be done. (Via YouTube / SenatorJohnMcCain)

But whether that includes taking the chain of command OUT of the prosecution of the crimes could end up being a real sticking point.

Gillibrand — a Democrat — has the support of Tea Party senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz on the issue. (Via U.S. News & World Report)

But South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham recently told Politico he was “dead set” against it: “You can’t fix any problem in the military where you exclude the commander.”

There’s a split within the ranks of the Senate’s female Democrats as well.

Missouri’s Claire McCaskill has campaigned against the amendment. Rather than completely take out the chain of command, she’s advocating taking away commanders’ ability to overturn jury verdicts. (Via YouTube / SenatorMcCaskill)

We should note top military leaders have come out in opposition of the amendment — which has previously failed to pass the Armed Services Committee. It’s expected to get another vote soon though — as an amendment to a military spending bill. According to the latest count from The New York Times, as many as 30 senators remain undecided.

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