Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed on Sunday announced that he supports legislation to take decisions about whether to prosecute sexual assault within the military out of the hands of the chain of command, The Hill reported.
The Rhode Island Democrat issued a statement that “sexual assault and harassment are pervasive problems in the U.S. military and American culture and we must take comprehensive action to halt sexual violence, hold violators accountable, and support survivors.”
Reed’s remarks continued that “Senator [Kirsten] Gillibrand has long advocated for change and the [Independent Review] Commission (IRC) has largely accepted her proposal on sexual assault. With that in mind, the IRC’s recommendation to change the role of the chain of command in the prosecution of sexual assault cases will be included in the Chairman’s mark that we will soon take up.”
The senator added in his statement that “At the end of conference, I fully expect a robust change in the role of the commander in sexual assault cases will be sent to President Biden for signature. While the first round of reform will focus on the issue of accountability, I hope and intend to incorporate the IRC’s recommendations on prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support as we move through the legislative year.”
Reed’s push for the legislation comes after the years-long effort, spearheaded by Gillibrand, to change the role of military commanders in the prosecution of sexual assault recently reached a turning point by surpassing the threshold of 61 votes needed in the Senate.
Gillibrand told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier this month that “We now have 61 bipartisan cosponsors (and) we probably have over 70 supporters of the bill, so we hope we can get a floor vote up or down so we can start the process of making this law. This is something that we worked on for nearly a decade. Unfortunately, the scourge of sexual assault in the military hasn’t changed.”
The New York Democrat stressed that she believes the bill “will end in more convictions and more serial rapists going to jail, which sends the message to change the climate so that these crimes are not tolerated.”
Gillibrand said this is so, because survivors of sexual assault “want this decision to be made by somebody who is highly trained, a lawyer, a criminal justice lawyer, someone who has the experience, and somebody who is not within that chain of command. They don’t know the perpetrator, they don’t know the accuser, and we believe and they believe that if you create this professionalized system, people will have more faith in it.”