The Senate shot down legislation to remove the prosecution of rape from the military chain of command, delivering a stinging defeat for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who has built significant support for the idea in recent months.
The Democratic-led chamber narrowly voted down the proposal, which received 55 votes in favor and 45 against, falling short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster on Thursday.
The Military Justice Improvement Act has been a flashpoint in the super-charged debate about how to stem the epidemic of sexual assault in the military. It would have set up an independent prosecutor’s office to deal with rape and other serious crimes that aren’t unique to the military.
Congress has already voted to revamp the military’s legal system by ending the statute of limitations on assault and rape cases, making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report assaults and requiring the dishonorable discharge or dismissal of anyone convicted of sexual assault or rape.
The is incredibly important considering that 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault experienced retaliation.
A separate, more modest proposal by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), cleared a procedural vote and is expected to be approved Monday night. Her plan would eliminate the “good soldier” defense from military evidence rules unless a defendant’s character is directly tied to the alleged crime.
10 Facts About Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military:
- In 2012, there were 26,000 instances of rape, sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact.
- 62 percent of victims who reported sexual assault experienced retaliation.
- During the reported period, only 302 service members faced punishment or dismissal as the result of being charged: Less than 2.5 percent of the total suspected number of acts of sexual assaults and rape.
- 90 percent of survivors of sexual assault in the military are involuntarily discharged. 80 percent of perpetrators and those accused are discharged with honor.
- In one study, 37 percent of female veterans report being raped at least twice.
- Additionally, 14 percent of female veterans report experiences of gang rape.
- Women make up 15 percent of active-duty forces, but 47 percent of sexual assault victims.
- The Pentagon estimates that 85 percent of sexual assault crimes go unreported.
- In the past 25 years, more than 500,000 people have been sexually assaulted in the military.
- 48,100 women and 43,700 men who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, responding to a survey, acknowledged suffering from military sexual trauma.