With a projection that as many as 26,000 members of the U.S. military were sexually assaulted last year, its clear that the brass has been doing a very poor job of deterring the crime. Only 3,374 assaults were actually reported a 6 percent increase over 2011 so the perception must be that telling someone in the chain of command isnt worthwhile. Indeed, a survey of victims found that a fear of retaliation is the main reason the assaulted keep silent.
Unfortunately, the Senate Armed Services Committed last week voted down a proposal to remove commanders from the process of deciding whether sexual misconduct cases go to trial. Under a bill by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., seasoned trial lawyers with prosecutorial experience and who hold at least the rank of colonel would have made the determination.
Instead, the committee voted 17-9 for a bill crafted by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that would, among other things, make it a crime to retaliate against victims who report sexual assaults and calls on the Pentagon to relieve commanders who dont create a climate receptive for victims.
These are good steps but not the dramatic change needed to shake the military culture out of its good ol boy status quo especially not when so many victims say their assailants were someone senior to them. Not when the enemy is within.