I support the Military Justice Improvement Act for a number of reasons but first and foremost because it will provide a safe place for survivors to report. And if survivors can report, we can prevent others from becoming victims of these same criminals. The whole premise behind this law is to remove the gatekeepers (Commander and Chain of Command). Not because they all are incapable and incompetent of doing the right thing but because they are trained to be warriors not police, detectives, and prosecutors. Therefore, they can quite potentially hurt a case by meddling in it.
The Commander may know both parties and cannot be impartial in this case. Therefore, we need to treat all cases as if they are worst case scenario so that our response is uniform and consistent. This law is only the first of many steps that need to be taken in order to ensure a fair process for both the victim and the accused. No one wants special rights; no one wants bias in the process. As a matter of fact, we are making the military’s response to violent crime similar to that of the civilian system. For example, would you report a crime to your boss? No. You would report a crime to the police, a rape crisis center, etc.
Since not all bases have legal and support services available to them, the next logical step is to turn to the Judge Advocate General, who is more of a legal professional then the Commander. Commanders are not trained to assist traumatized victims, conduct investigations, or study the modus operandi of predators. Most prosecutors are schooled in these techniques automatically just because of their legal training. The ideal scenario would include one place to call or go to assist them with the process. We can’t do this until they report. The SARC or SAPRO can act as a support system but only if they have a supportive Command. Therefore, we need to guarantee a support system that will review the situation from an objective point of view. The good soldier defense and how long you have served should not determine your credibility.
If you don’t believe the military has a reporting problem, then you don’t know the numbers. The numbers are staggering and illusive. The 26,300 troops that the Department of Defense reports are sexual assaulted per year does not include the military service academies, the Coast Guard, or sexual harassment cases. Unfortunately, the Department of Defense is still referring sexual harassment cases to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, which is a Commander’s program. Therefore once again, if the EEO representative is not supported by the Commander then they cannot help you. Of the 26,300 estimated troops, only 3,374 reported the crimes perpetrated against them. Sixty-two percent of those that did not report the crime did not report because of fear of retaliation and the impact on their career, and rightly so.