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September 23, 2014
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editorial

Military justice denied


In 2012, the Pentagon reported an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact, a 37% increase from 2011. At the same time, reporting rates fell from 13.5% in 2011 (3,192 official reports out of 19,000 estimated incidents) to 9.8% in 2012 (3,374 official reports out of 26,000 estimated incidents). As for conviction, while the number of convictions increased from 191 in 2011 to 238 in 2012, the conviction rate dropped from 1% to 0.9%. Finally, 62% of victims who reported sexual assault said they perceived some kind of professional, social and/or administrative retaliation.

Perhaps less known is that sexual assault in the military is a genderless crime; both men and women are victims. While one in five of all female service members have reported experiencing unwanted sexual contact during their service in the military, more than half of all victims of unwanted sexual contact are believed to be men.

Both the accused and the accuser are entitled to a fair and informed assessment of their case and that putting this responsibility in the hands of “the boss” rather than an independent professional prosecutor outside of the chain of command is the best proposal we have seen. This proposal will not undermine order and discipline in the ranks by taking this out of command, but will instead give members of the military more faith that their case will be fairly heard and justice achieved. America’s sons and daughters, whom we send into harm’s way to defend us, deserve better than to suffer from sexual assault at the hands of their own comrades in arms. This problem must be fixed, and defenders of the current system, which is clearly broken, need to get on board.