U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is once again urging Congress to pass reforms to help combat sexual assault in the military. Samantha Jackson survived a sexual assault as a military spouse. She joined Gillibrand at an announcement on Tuesday to share her story of being raped by her ex-husband, which she tried to report to the commanding officers.
"I had a video of the assault where I am clearly unconscious. The video shows me wake up and tell my ex-husband to stop and push him away, but he ignores me. During an interview with army investigators, my husband confessed to the crime. The army investigators, who worked on the case, told me I had a strong case. The U.S. Attorney chose not to prosecute the case because the military was taking action, but that never happened."
Her ex-husband was eventually released from the Army and never prosecuted. Senator Rand Paul says he can’t look the other way when he heard Jackson’s story. He says it’s time to make changes. He supports Gillibrand’s measure to report assaults to prosecutors, instead of military command.
"Nobody should be forced to go their boss to report a rape. You should go to the proper authorities. This would still all happen within the military, we are not talking about something outside the military. There is a lot of evidence that it is not working the way that we have."
Paul says out of an estimated 26,000 accusations of sexual misconduct, only 3,000 get reported. Gillibrand says conviction rates also remain low, despite past reforms.
"What's upset me the most that the military have not created a justice system that is worthy of the support of men and women who will sacrifice their lives for this country. It is a system that rife with bias, lack of transparency and no accountability. They have not improved the system given all the reforms we put in place."
Gillibrand is calling on Congress and the White House to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act. The act was introduced in 2013 as a stand alone bill and did not make it out of committee. In 2015 the legislation was added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization act. It failed in the Senate by a 50-49 vote, with 60 votes needed to pass. Gillibrand and other bi-partisan supporters are calling on re-vote of the amendment. The act would specifically target the manner in which the military justice system addresses serious crimes, including sexual assaults. In the current system, the sole authority on moving a case forward to trial comes from the chain-of-command. The legislation proposes to have an independently trained group of military prosecutors decide on whether or not to take serious crimes to court. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote in the Senate.