A Pentagon study has estimated that 26,000 service members were sexually assaulted in 2012, up 34% since 2010. Despite that depressingly large number, only 3,374 — or under 13% — reported the crime. Women are more likely to be assaulted than men. But, due to the fact that men outnumber women in service, 53% of those victims in 2012 were men.
In response to these staggering numbers, President Obama on Friday gave the military one year to clean up its act, otherwise tougher reforms will be on the way with regard to military sexual trauma cases. Such “tougher” reforms were not verbalized, though earlier this Fall one sweeping proposal was discussed at length in Congress.
The problem in the military, as suggested by the aforementioned numbers, is that, initially, not all assaults are reported. Among those that are reported, it is left up to the commanders to determine if the accused will proceed to trial. Any number of factors may stall that process, not the least of which may be that the commanders do not want their record to be marred by convictions, and thus they may impede the investigation.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, proposed the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), designed to take military sexual assault cases away from the military command and to try the accused in civil court. At its core, the reasoning behind the proposal is simple: those in charge within the military have no legal training and there are obvious conflicts of interest that impede justice. These reasons are also at the heart of the underreporting problem, because victims fear that reporting the rape will lead to retaliation up the chain.
Obviously President Obama is aware of MIJA, though he has not publicly taken a stance on it. His ultimatum to the military is obviously better than nothing, but it seemingly is delaying the inevitable. Whether it be Sen. Gillibrand’s proposal, or some other acceptable compromise, odds are that come December 2014, the President is going to have to make due on his threat to the military. If they have not realized the scope and urgency of the matter thus far, so what makes anyone think there will be a revelation over the next 12 months?