Our Women In Uniform

04.10.132:44 PM ET

Hagel Calls For Military Rape Reform

On the heels of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Defense Secretary calls for reform of military rape trial procedures.

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell now has some competition for most groundbreaking military retraction. Time and time again, stories of rape and sexual abuse have come out of the American armed forces, often with slap-on-the-wrist sentences for alleged offenders--as in the recent case of a senior Air Force officer who was convicted of sexual assault, but not jailed or discharged, as had been ruled. This tendency to overlook high-ranking officers’ sexual indiscretions is entrenched in military culture, largely because of a stipulation that allows commanders to essentially overturn court rulings of guilt or innocence (which is what happened in the case of the Air Force officer). On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that he would put pressure on Congress to change this procedure. He will recommend that Congress take away the power of overturning jury’s findings from senior commanders, but allow for the possibility that they may alter the severity of the findings, for instance the length of prison time. Although this certainly is an encouraging step, many are still critical of Hagel’s decision, as military officials will still be involved in the chain of command and have jurisdiction to soften the blow of court decisions.