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IAVA Stands with Senate Champions and Military Sexual Assault Advocates to Announce Legislation to Professionalize how the Military Prosecutes Serious Crimes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 29, 2021
CONTACT: press@iava.org

Washington D.C. – Today, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the leading Post-9/11 veterans advocacy and support organization, stood with Sens. Gillibrand (D-NY), Grassley (R-IA), Ernst (R-IA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Cruz (R-TX), and Kelly (D-AZ) and military sexual assault advocates to announce the introduction of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA). This groundbreaking legislation would take the decision to prosecute serious crimes such as sexual assault, out of the hands of a servicemember’s chain of command and give it to independently trained military prosecutors. It would also increase security measures at military installations to keep servicemembers safe and improve sexual assault and harassment training procedures. 

“Seventy-three percent of our members that reported their military sexual assault report they’ve been retaliated against,” stated IAVA Executive VP, Tom Porter. “And 44 percent of our members who experienced sexual assault said they’d be more likely to report the crime if there had been a specially trained military prosecutor. For years, flag officers have been coming to the Hill stating that they will fix this problem; it’s not working.” 

Since 2013, IAVA has worked closely with Sens. Gillibrand and Grassley to pass legislation aimed at removing the chain of command from the important decision to prosecute. Year after year, servicemembers are let down by military leadership when allegations are not fully investigated. This critical legislation is designed to address the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault have in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them. Since the initial introduction of the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) in 2013, unrestricted reports of sexual assaults in the military have doubled, yet the rate of prosecution and conviction has been halved. 

In the most recent report published by the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2018, one in 16 women in the military reported being sexually assaulted. Also, there were nearly 21,000 sexual assaults, an increase from 14,900 in 2016. MJIIPA ensures that decisions to move to trial will be based on the evidence of the case alone, giving both survivors and the accused confidence in the impartiality of the system. The bill continues to equip commanders with tools to prevent and address sexual assault within their units. IAVA believes the MJIIPA’s reforms are critical to breaking the status quo of pervasive sexual assault in the military.

“We need to solve this,” added Porter. “We need to do this for the soldier that wants accountability from her command. We need to do this for the airman that faces threats from within their command. We need to do this for the former sailor who wants her kids to be safe following in her footsteps. And we need to do this for the Marine who just wants to do her damn job.”

IAVA is the voice for the post-9/11 veteran generation. With over 400,000 veterans and allies nationwide, IAVA is the leader in non-partisan veteran advocacy and public awareness. We drive historic impacts for veterans and IAVA’s programs are second to none. Any veteran or family member in need can reach out to IAVA’s Quick Reaction Force at quickreactionforce.org or 855-91RAPID (855-917-2743) to be connected promptly with a veteran care manager who will assist. IAVA’s The Vote Hub is a free tool to register to vote and find polling information. IAVA’s membership is always growing. Join the movement at iava.org/membership.

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