On Thursday, Gillibrand announced that the legislature – which would overturn the decision to prosecute serious crimes such as sexual assault against military commanders and instead shift that authority to seasoned military prosecutors – now has 61 co-sponsors. This means that legislation can lift the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster and secure a vote. The measure could also be linked to the upcoming Senate Defense Act.
“The rate of sexual assault continues to rise, but the rate of cases brought to justice and the rate of cases that end in conviction are falling,” said Gillibrand, who appeared seriously on Face the Nation.
Gillibrand specifically cited the 2020 murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén by another soldier at Fort Hood, Texas, where she had previously reported being sexually assaulted.
“There was also a reporter from Fort Hood recently about the murder of a young woman named Vanessa Guillén,” said Gillibrand. “And they did a review of what this place was like, and they found it was a toxic climate – so toxic that sexual harassment and assault was not only widespread, but also a permissive atmosphere for this type of behavior. “
Guillén is also the namesake for the House’s legislation to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military. House Legislation, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier, Chair of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Forces, also seeks to remove the prosecution of sex crimes from the military chain of command and to make sexual harassment a separate military issue Criminal offenses and allowing troops to seek damages against the Department of Defense for sexual harassment and assault.
Some have raised concerns about these measures, arguing that leaving the chain of command could undermine a commanders ability to hold their troops accountable.
“Well, that was my concern in the past,” said Ernst on Sunday. “And of course we want commanders to be in control of their units and the soldiers or airmen or marines or seamen within those commands.”
She added that it is still up to the commander to take these measures and make changes within his command, and that they have an opportunity to fix the problem if they find bad behavior in their unit.
“However, it will absolutely have the effect we hope for, namely that it goes to a specialized prosecutor who can then judge whether this case is progressing or not. The commander still has the ability to discipline within the case.” Unity and create a much better positive climate of command. “
Gillibrand also noted that handing these decisions over to “a trained, unbiased military prosecutor” achieves two goals: it involves prosecutors better equipped to decide which cases to bring to justice and whether they will succeed; and the charge will not boil down to protecting one person from another based on who they know or how valuable they are to the unit.
Gillibrand hopes this will allow for more professionalism in the process and encourage victims to come forward more often.