The best way to protect survivors of sexual assault in our Armed Forces

Senator Claire McCaskill
2013-08-01 16:27:17
    Dear Unity, It's hard to hold someone accountable for fixing a problem if you strip them of all of their responsibilities for dealing with that problem. That's something I've learned during my time working to strengthen accountability in government. And it's a lesson I'm bringing to bear in our ongoing debate over how to eliminate rapes and sexual assaults plaguing our military. For me, as someone who spent years as a courtroom prosecutor - holding the hands of victims, and putting their rapists behind bars - this debate is about one thing: how best to protect and empower survivors of sexual assault, and hold military brass accountable for fixing this problem once and for all. We recently had a breakthrough when my colleagues and I on the Armed Services Committee won approval for a host of aggressive, historic reforms to the military justice system. These include stripping commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, installing civilian review of decisions to not prosecute cases, mandating dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault, making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report a sexual assault, eliminating the statute of limitations in these cases, making it clear that commanders who fail to address sexual assaults should be relieved of command, and many others. I strongly believe these provisions will finally turn the corner on stemming these horrific crimes in our Armed Forces. Last week, I was proud to be joined by a group of retired female servicemembers-as well as my colleague, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, also a former prosecutor. These women, who served a combined total of nearly two centuries in the U.S. military, each spoke from their decades of experience about why they believe that our reforms will make the most difference, and why an alternative approach others are pursuing that would completely strip commanders of their responsibilities in these cases would actually lead to a higher risk of retaliation against survivors who tell their stories, less prosecutions of predators and weakened accountability up-and-down the chain of command. The historic reforms approved by the Armed Services Committee, which we're working to enact into law, strike the right balance-a balance between eliminating commanders' ability to abuse their authority in these cases, while retaining commanders' ability to do it right. Because for survivors in our military who are considering whether to report a crime, there's just no substitute for a unit commander who takes his or her job seriously when it comes to protecting that victim from retaliation. The female servicemembers who lent their experience and personal views to this debate made critical points, including Colonel Lisa Schenck, a retired Army Judge Advocate who said, "This proposal is important for victims, and it's going to address this issue-victims need to be empowered, and this bill empowers the victims." We have a long way to go on this fight, but rest assured that I'll keep up the fight until survivors in our military have finally had their day in court. All the best, P.S. I want to hear your thoughts on this issue. Connect with me via email, Facebook and Twitter.       Regional Offices & Contact Information     Washington, DC Office Hart Senate Office Building, Ste. 506 Washington, D.C. 20510 P: 202-224-6154 F: 202-228-6326 Cape Girardeau 555 Independence St., Room 1600 Cape Girardeau, MO 63703 P: 573-651-0964 F: 573-334-4278 Columbia 915 E. Ash St. Columbia, MO 65201 P: 573-442-7130 F: 573-442-7140         Kansas City 4141 Pennsylvania Ave., Ste. 101 Kansas City, MO 64111 P: 816-421-1639 F: 816-421-2562 Springfield 324 Park Central West, Ste. 101 Springfield, MO 65806 P: 417-868-8745 F: 417-831-1349 St. Louis 5850 Delmar Blvd, Ste. A St. Louis, MO 63112 P: 314-367-1364 F: 314-361-8649       I'm on Twitter, a networking tool that helps me keep in touch with Missourians -- read more about Twitter here. Keep up to date on how I'm working for you in Washington by following me @mccaskilloffice. Reach me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SenatorMcCaskill. To unsubscribe from Claire's Newsletter, please visit the unsubscribe page here: mccaskill.senate.gov/
Claire McCaskill | Missouri's Senator
   

Dear Unity,

It's hard to hold someone accountable for fixing a problem if you strip them of all of their responsibilities for dealing with that problem. That's something I've learned during my time working to strengthen accountability in government. And it's a lesson I'm bringing to bear in our ongoing debate over how to eliminate rapes and sexual assaults plaguing our military.

For me, as someone who spent years as a courtroom prosecutor - holding the hands of victims, and putting their rapists behind bars - this debate is about one thing: how best to protect and empower survivors of sexual assault, and hold military brass accountable for fixing this problem once and for all.

We recently had a breakthrough when my colleagues and I on the Armed Services Committee won approval for a host of aggressive, historic reforms to the military justice system. These include stripping commanders of their ability to overturn jury convictions, installing civilian review of decisions to not prosecute cases, mandating dishonorable discharge or dismissal for anyone convicted of sexual assault, making it a crime to retaliate against victims who report a sexual assault, eliminating the statute of limitations in these cases, making it clear that commanders who fail to address sexual assaults should be relieved of command, and many others. I strongly believe these provisions will finally turn the corner on stemming these horrific crimes in our Armed Forces.

Last week, I was proud to be joined by a group of retired female servicemembers-as well as my colleague, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, also a former prosecutor. These women, who served a combined total of nearly two centuries in the U.S. military, each spoke from their decades of experience about why they believe that our reforms will make the most difference, and why an alternative approach others are pursuing that would completely strip commanders of their responsibilities in these cases would actually lead to a higher risk of retaliation against survivors who tell their stories, less prosecutions of predators and weakened accountability up-and-down the chain of command.

The historic reforms approved by the Armed Services Committee, which we're working to enact into law, strike the right balance-a balance between eliminating commanders' ability to abuse their authority in these cases, while retaining commanders' ability to do it right. Because for survivors in our military who are considering whether to report a crime, there's just no substitute for a unit commander who takes his or her job seriously when it comes to protecting that victim from retaliation.

The female servicemembers who lent their experience and personal views to this debate made critical points, including Colonel Lisa Schenck, a retired Army Judge Advocate who said, "This proposal is important for victims, and it's going to address this issue-victims need to be empowered, and this bill empowers the victims."

We have a long way to go on this fight, but rest assured that I'll keep up the fight until survivors in our military have finally had their day in court.

All the best,


P.S. I want to hear your thoughts on this issue. Connect with me via email, Facebook and Twitter.

   
 

Regional Offices & Contact Information

   

Washington, DC Office
Hart Senate Office Building, Ste. 506
Washington, D.C. 20510
P: 202-224-6154
F: 202-228-6326

Cape Girardeau
555 Independence St., Room 1600
Cape Girardeau, MO 63703
P: 573-651-0964
F: 573-334-4278

Columbia
915 E. Ash St.
Columbia, MO 65201
P: 573-442-7130
F: 573-442-7140

   
   

Kansas City
4141 Pennsylvania Ave., Ste. 101
Kansas City, MO 64111
P: 816-421-1639
F: 816-421-2562

Springfield
324 Park Central West, Ste. 101
Springfield, MO 65806
P: 417-868-8745
F: 417-831-1349

St. Louis
5850 Delmar Blvd, Ste. A
St. Louis, MO 63112
P: 314-367-1364
F: 314-361-8649

   
 

I'm on Twitter,"a networking tool that helps me keep in touch with Missourians -- read"more about Twitter here. Keep up to date on how I'm working for you in Washington by following me @mccaskilloffice.

" Reach me on Facebook at http://Facebook.com/SenatorMcCaskill.

" To unsubscribe from Claire's Newsletter, please visit the unsubscribe page here: