WASHINGTON — Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), along with a bipartisan group of senators and advocates, on Nov. 16 called on the Senate to pass the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, which would establish an impartial, fair, and accountable military justice system to address the crisis of sexual assault.
Since 2013, Hirono has championed this legislation, which would put the decision to prosecute serious crimes like sexual assault into the hands of impartial military prosecutors instead of potentially biased military commanders.
“We have institutionalized and protected a process that does not result in justice for victims,” said Hirono. “I continue to call for the passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act to address this injustice, and thank Sen. Gillibrand for her leadership on this critical issue.”
“Congress should finally be out of excuses to continue protecting the status quo that harms our service members and protects predators,” said Gillibrand. “How much longer do we need to wait for Congress to do the right thing when the facts about sexual assault in the military remain the same? It is unacceptable that Congress has allowed this utter lack of accountability and transparency to continue.
“The Military Justice Improvement Act would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes like sexual assault and remove the systemic fear that survivors of military sexual assault describe in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them. I urge all of my colleagues who want to do something to combat sexual violence in our society to join me in cosponsoring this bipartisan bill to create a justice system worthy of the sacrifice of our service members. To do less is to knowingly perpetuate a failed system.”
Repeated testimony from survivors and former commanders proves that there is widespread reluctance on the part of survivors to come forward to trial. Last year, the Department of Defense announced a record number of sexual assaults reported against service members, and the lowest conviction rates for their assailants on record, at just 9%. The most recent Pentagon survey found that nearly 6 out of 10 survivors say they have experienced some form of retaliation for reporting the crime.