Lobbying on both sides of the issue—to keep commanders in charge of sexual assault response as the Pentagon and senators like Claire McCaskill and Carl Levin want or to put it in the hands of legal experts as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and victim-advocacy groups are calling for—continued through the August recess, Darren Samuelsohn reports:
Protect Our Defenders, a victim-advocacy group, has delivered more than 260 letters to senators. The group’s staff and officers had more than a dozen meetings with senators and their aides in Washington and back home in their states — many of them undecided — over the August break. Advocates say they’ll also be bolstered by several high-profile sexual assault cases moving now through the military’s opaque justice system, including the Naval Academy superintendent’s pending decision on whether to court-martial three former football players and the Fort Bragg trial later this month of Army Brig. Gen. Jeffery A. Sinclair, a rare event for such a high-ranking officer accused of assaulting a female subordinate.(Never mind that that's not what victim advocacy groups say, folks!) Both Gillibrand and McCaskill have been talking with undecided senators about their competing proposals. But now, congressional attention to the military will be on Syria, and voting on sexual assault proposals will likely be delayed, possibly until after Christmas.
McCaskill, who was blindsided earlier this summer by a Protect Our Defenders ad attacking her position in her home-state paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, also went on offense publishing an op-ed in USA Today with California Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, herself a victim of sexual assault. The two Democrats went directly after Gillibrand. “We view this as a risky approach for victims — one that would increase the risk of retaliation, weaken our ability to hold commanders accountable and lead to fewer prosecutions,” they wrote.
It's important to keep up the pressure: Tell the U.S. Senate to take action against sexual assault in the military by passing Sen. Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act.