We have the most powerful military in the world, and its purpose is to protect the citizens of our country. But what happens when the entity that is supposed to protect us can’t even protect those within its own ranks?
In 2011, Newsweek reported that more military women were sexually assaulted than were killed in combat. The greatest threat to our military is itself and its inability to control the overwhelming number of sexual assaults that happen within units across all branches.
In 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense reported that 26,300 service men and women said they were sexually assaulted in the military. Of those only 3,374 were reported. From that, 62 percent of sexual assault victims in the military experienced retaliation including: inhibiting promotion by commanding officers, being ostracized within their units and even facing discharge from service.
There is a 0.9 percent conviction rate of military sexual assaults.
Up until it was overturned, a violation of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy resulted in immediate dismissal from the military, yet those convicted of criminal assault are often allowed to return to their units.
For a unit to be successful and cohesive all members must be committed to their duties. Every member must look out for one another and be willing to sacrifice himself/herself for the greater good of the collective unit. Psychologically, this ability is shattered if one member of a unit violates the trust of another.
The egregious nature of sexual assault is not tolerated in civilian society and results in serious criminal repercussions. In our military this behavior in many cases is handled with a slight slap on the wrist for the accused.
This dichotomy is unacceptable, yet the trend will continue if our military justice system is not changed.
Currently power to decide whether a case is heard at a court-martial lies with the presiding commanding officers . This results in many sexual assault cases not even going to trial.
In the current investigation into alleged sexual assault by three Naval Academy football players, the original military judge ruled not to court-martial the players. It took the superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy himself to overturn the initial ruling.
This case is receiving national attention, and it points out two very apparent issues. First, the original commander did not see it necessary for the players to go to trial. And second, it is possible that the superintendent only stepped in because the case was receiving nation-wide attention.
There are too many sexual assault cases in the military that don’t have the luxury of being on a national platform to force the issue. The decision to continue the case needs to be taken away from the military and be put in the hands of the civilian criminal justice system.
A civilian justice system will allow impartial juries to bring justice to the men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters that make up our military. It has worked for many of our military allies such as Canada, Britain, Sweden and Germany. So what is stopping us?