• Kevin Dietsch/UPI, via Landov

    Sexual Assault Bill SNAFU

    The New York Senator may have lost the vote to move prosecution of sexual assaults outside the military, but she’s still a champion in certain circles who will continue to maintain a watchful eye on reform.

    Legislation that would have transferred the decision to prosecute sexual assault in the military from commanders to lawyers outside the chain of command failed to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the senate Thursday. The 55 senators that supported New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act included all but three of the 20 women currently serving in the senate. Those three, Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska backed legislation crafted by McCaskill, which cruised to an easy victory after two hours of emotional debate.

    Except for the glaring difference in how women in the still male-dominated senate voted, pigeon-holing supporters for either bill along ideological or partisan lines proved difficult. The pro-Gillibrand vote had a more progressive caste overall with Democratic newcomers Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Cory Booker in her camp. But she also won over iconoclastic Republicans Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Chuck Grassley, a coalition that is rare for a Democrat in Washington today.

    Permalink
  • Mark Wilson/Getty

    STALEMATE

    Gillibrand: Military Must Change

    N.Y. senator also grilled about her big-bank donations on ‘The Daily Show.’

    During an interview with The Daily Show’s interim host John Oliver, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said that the military has a problem with accepting change. The New York Democrat is introducing legislation that would place reporting rape and sexual assault in the military in the hands of a neutral lawyer, instead of having military members report it to their bosses. When asked about the bipartisan support of her bill—including the like of politicians like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz—she said the issue is neither Democratic nor Republican. Gillibrand said the military has a long history of resisting change: “It’s very difficult for them ... when they dealt with segregation, integration of the services; when it was having women enter the services; when it was allowing gays to serve openly in the military, every single time they have opposed that.” Oliver also prodded Gillibrand on her donations from Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, but the senator seemed to sidestep the question, instead focusing on getting “money out of politics, period.”

    Permalink
  • Win McNamee/Getty

    BEEFS TO BFFS?

    Unlikely Alliances in Senate

    Formed because of complex sexual-assault measures.

    The fight for new laws on sexual assault in the military has created some strange bedfellows in the Senate. A proposal by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand giving prosecutors rather than commanders the power to determine which sexual-assault cases to try won support from conservative Republicans Ted Cruz and David Vitter, only to lose out to a less far-reaching measure offered by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and backed by fellow Democrat Claire McCaskill. These surprising alliances underline the complexity of the legislative terrain, Jennifer Steinhauer reports in The New York Times. Nevertheless, unlike many policy battles in the stalemated Senate, the effort to address military sexual violence is almost certain to ultimately result in significant change. More than a dozen new provisions were approved by the Armed Services Committee this week, including measures to criminalize retaliation against victims who report crimes, subject sex offenders to automatic dishonorable discharge, and end commanders’ power to unilaterally overturn jury convictions.

    Permalink
  • As Congress investigates the growing epidemic of sexual assaults within the military, the Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, to demand answers from top uniformed leaders about whether a drastic overhaul of the military justice system is needed. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

    FIERCE RESISTANCE

    Military Sex Assault Crisis

    Testifying before the Armed Services Committee, military leaders resisted a call to change how victims of sexual assault report the attacks.

    It was a battle on the Hill Tuesday as top military leaders agreed on the need to do more to prevent sexual assaults—but fiercely resisted calls from U.S. senators on the Armed Services Committee to remove the handling of such cases from the chain of command.

    “I urge that military commanders remain central to the legal process. The commander’s ability to preserve good order and discipline remains essential to accomplishing any change within our profession,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the committee. “Reducing command responsibility could adversely affect the ability of the commander to enforce professional standards and, ultimately, to accomplish the mission.”

    Permalink
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee hears from top officials of the Air Force, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, right, and Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley, left, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 7, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/Getty)

    Military Assault

    ‘Outrageous’ Rape Testimony

    Senator Gillibrand tells Eleanor Clift a general blaming military rape on hookup culture is ‘outrageous.’

    If it was possible to make a bad situation worse, that’s what Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh managed to do at a Senate hearing Tuesday morning when he blamed an increase in sexual assault in the military on the “hookup” culture prevalent among young people. Welsh said 20 percent of female recruits report being assaulted before they joined the military. “They come in from a society where this occurs,” he said.

    Not only did Welsh’s remark seem to place blame on the victim, it also revealed a tendency to view sexual assault in the most benign way, as a date gone bad or a breakdown in communications rather than a violent act. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first woman to chair the personnel subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, told The Daily Beast it was “outrageous testimony” that showed a fundamental misunderstanding about the violent nature of sexual assault. The senator is introducing a bill next week to take felony crimes out of the chain of command so that rape victims will feel more able to report violent assault without fearing repercussions from officers up the line.

    Permalink
  • Mark Wilson / Getty Images

    Our Women in uniform

    Kirsten Gillibrand's Brave New Bills

    The Democratic Senator takes aim at sexual abuse in the military with proposed legislation.

    Finally some encouraging news for sexual abuse victims in the military. According to a piece in The New York Times today, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is plugging two new bills in response to the disturbing numbers of rape victims coming out of the military. The Defense Department has estimated the number of sexual abuse at 19,000 annual cases. Of those, only 3,192 are reported, and only 10 percent of those cases are actually brought to trial. That means not even two percent of sexual assault victims are receiving any kind of closure.

    Gillibrand is working to change this problematic imbalance. The first bill she’s proposing would allow women in the military to pay for their own abortions regardless of circumstance. As it stands, military doctors can only conduct abortions if the woman’s life is endangered or in the case of rape or incest. Unfortunately, women in high stations are often unwilling to report rape for fear of losing their careers. With the bill, they wouldn’t have to risk it.

    Permalink