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Sexual assault issues in armed forces needs to be examined

June 26, 2013
Lehigh Acres Citizen

To the editor:

We must monitor the incidence and prosecution of sexual assault in the military over the next year to see whether the Senate's compromise solution is effective in preventing and punishing sexual assaults by military personnel against other military personnel.

Last year there were an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults, and very few were prosecuted. In the past, commanders could choose whether to prosecute and could reverse successful prosecutions at their discretion. Now a review system of commander decisions has been proposed rather than removing sexual assaults from the chain of command in the military justice system.

The previous system discouraged reporting sexual assaults, which were often committed by the victim's commanding officer or by another comrade favored by the commander. To report an assault would have negative consequences to the victim, including poor reports and lack of promotion.

Despite protests by the women senators, the male senators on the committee deemed it prudent to leave the resolution of sexual assaults in the chain of command. The new legislation requires a review of the commander's decision not to prosecute by a higher commander and ultimately by the civilian Secretary in charge of that branch of the military. It remains to be seen whether the new review process will have a positive impact on the rate of sexual assaults.

We need to watch this new process to see how many prosecutions actually occur and how many assaults are reported. If the new system does not deter sexual assault, the Senate must take another look. If sexual assaults do not decrease, perhaps it is time to remove the chain of command from controlling the process.

"We the people" who send our sons and daughters to serve our country must contact our senators to remind them that we want this issue resolved and not swept under the carpet with ineffective legislation.

Joan Patterson

Lehigh Acres



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