Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Bowing to the Pentagon, the Senate agreed after impassioned debate Thursday to leave the authority to prosecute rapes and other serious crimes with military commanders in a struggle that highlighted the growing role of women in Congress.
The Senate is heading for a showdown over contentious legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by taking away the authority of senior commanders to prosecute rapes and other serious offenses.
At U.S. military bases in Japan, most service members found culpable in sex crimes in recent years did not go to prison, according to internal Department of Defense documents. Instead, in a review of hundreds of cases filed in America’s largest overseas military installation, offenders were fined, demoted, restricted to their bases or removed from the military.
The Senate’s 20 women, emboldened by their recent political and legislative successes, are determined to swell their ranks this November.
Senate opponents of stripping military commanders of the authority to prosecute serious crimes such as rape and sexual assault said Monday that the proposal could make it worse for victims.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has secured public support from nearly half the Senate, but not enough votes, for her proposal to give victims of rape and sexual assault in the military an independent route outside the chain of command for prosecuting attackers.
A senator says repeated sexual assaults in the military allow a culture to continue.