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IAVA | March 10, 2014

Read: Some – But Not Complete – Reform To Combat Military Sexual Assault

The U.S. Senate Monday night approved, by a vote of 97-0, legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to support survivors of military sexual assault. IAVA supports the legislation, as it is a step forward to supporting survivors and reforming a broken system.

Following tonight’s passage the bill goes to the House, but time will tell if/when the House decides to move on the bill. It might be incorporated into this year’s NDAA, and IAVA will continue to update as the legislative process continues.

The bill:

  • Allows survivors to offer thoughts on whether they want their case handled by the military or the civilian jurisdiction. This choice isn’t binding, but it allows them to make a preference.
  • Establishes sexual assault as a line-item in a performance review of the commander. It’s very important to establish this regular evaluation process.
  • Requires command climate assessments after each incident of sexual assault. This assessment can be included in evidence in the case.
  • Allows confidential review of discharges of survivors to ensure that they were not retaliated against.
  • Applies all of these provisions to military academies.
  • Removes the “good soldier” defense, which removes irrelevant factors such as the service record of the accused to be taken into account.

The status quo has not worked, and we are in much need of reform. Yet, Congress left the strongest possible reform on the table by failing to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would have put decisions of whether to move cases involving serious crimes to a court martial in the hands of experienced military prosecutors, establishing a more impartial justice system that would have balanced aggressive prosecution with the rights of the accused. IAVA veterans and supporters still need MJIA – but tonight’s vote is a step toward a fairer system.

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