A woman serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is more likely to be sexually assaulted by another member of the U.S. military than to be killed by enemy fire. Just sit with that for a minute. The biggest threat to our military women is their peers and superiors. This is beyond unacceptable. This is an epidemic. And it must be stopped.
According to a recent report released by the Department of Defense, an estimated 19,000 men and women in the military were sexually assaulted last year. Worse still, these victims’ right to justice is determined by Unit Commanders who have no legal training. This means that sexual assault victims’ fates are in the hands of one single person who has no expertise in handling or understanding sexual assault.
In North Carolina, this problem hits home. We have Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the world, plus three other military bases across our state. North Carolina has the 4th largest military population in the country and houses an additional 70,000 female veterans. A problem for the military is a problem for North Carolina.
For the women who serve and those who plan to, here’s some good news: the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) would reassign the job of handling sexual assault cases to skilled military prosecutors. Legal experts would decide the path of prosecution instead of Unit Commanders.
During her testimony to the Response Systems Panel, Sponsor of the bill Senator Kirsten Gillibrand remarked, “Our carefully crafted, commonsense proposal, written in direct response to the experiences of those who have gone through a system rife with bias and conflict of interest, is not Democratic. It is not Republican. Senators from both sides of the aisle have listened to the victim’s voices and agreed that what’s right is not just tweaking the status quo, but a real transformational change.”
I believe that this transformational change is long past due. If you agree, call your Senators. Tell them that you care about the Military Justice Improvement Act and want to see it pass. (None of our senators have yet come out in support of this bill.) Our servicemen and women defend me and our country; the least I can do is defend their health and safety.
Simone was born and raised in North Carolina. She currently attends New York University where she is studying Politics and Public Policy. She is passionate about voting rights, public education, and veterans issues.