CNN reported today that a bill aiming to drastically reduce sexual assault in the military was shot down in the Senate by a vote of 55 to 45. This represents yet another sad defeat for the oft-silenced voices of assault and rape victims in the armed forces. According to testimony by one of the bill's sponsors, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), assault numbers have continued to climb in the past few years: between 2011 and 2012, incidents of unwanted sexual conduct or abuse in the armed forces jumped from 19,000 to 26,000 cases. Yet, only 3,374 of these crimes were reported, and even fewer than these were brought to trial. That's from a Pentagon study.
You can get really sad and find the full text of the bill here, or thank Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)* for the prolonged filibuster which led to its failing. Graham and McCaskill argued that the bill's tactics, which included stripping military commanders of their ability to preside over sexual assault cases in the armed forces, was "way off base." This after Senator Gillibrand secured the ever-dubious support of Republicans Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for her bi-partisan proposition. Sorry-not-sorry for the snark, but this thumping lefty is livid; not only does our Congress remain a gridlocked disaster in the face of even the most directly humanitarian issues, but Washington continues to echo — all too disturbingly — nothing more than the outlandish plot lines of House of Cards, season two.
What's more, according to an article by Kat Stoeffel for New York Magazine, the military's top army prosecutor for sexual assault cases (Lt. Colonel Joseph “Jay” Morse) was allegedly suspended from his post TODAY following “allegations that he groped another Army lawyer who worked under him at a sexual assault legal conference in 2011.” Instances like these seem to hammer home a dire need for competent civilian oversight in the military, and the very grim state of affairs for women in our country's service. This is a huge, huge issue to be aware of. The fact that rape and abuse in the armed forces has been allowed to continue speaks such upsetting volumes about our country's values, and the state of women's affairs in even our so-called "first world."
Organizations like SWAN (or, the Service Women's Action Network) continue to fight the good fight for all the victims, men and women, who suffer from sexual assault in the military today. You can follow their efforts here. Like Senator Gillibrand, SWAN calls for civilian oversight of the military's judicial proceedings for all cases regarding sexual assault.
If you want to go on a sad trip through all of the intelligent editorials offering support for Ms. Gillibrand's mission, go here. But I loudly encourage you to talk about this issue, and then get duly mad! Stay mad, until things change!
*Okay, okay, I care about other peoples' opinions. You can find Senator McCaskill's defense of her position here.
Image courtesy of the New York Daily News.