Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says the military's procedures for handling sexual assault cases must be changed because the top officers in charge of reviewing them have failed to live up to their responsibility as leaders and role models for the very people they command.
"Commanders are in charge of setting the command climate and making sure these rapes don't happen, and if they do happen, making sure there's such a command climate that that victim feels comfortable coming forward," the New York Democrat said Wednesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"There's not a member of Congress who would agree today they're getting it right. So we need a real reform that has a chance of giving our victim's justice," she added.
On Tuesday, Gillibrand was joined by Republican Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas in her fight to overhaul the military's procedures for handling rape cases by removing the chain of command from the review process. Gillibrand has called for independent reviews of cases to make victims more comfortable in coming forward and to ensure an unbiased determination of whether prosecutions should be pursued.
The Senate Armed Services Committee did make reforms to make it more difficult for commanding officers to interfere, dismiss, or overturn sexual assault cases. But it stopped short of removing them completely from the process, as Gillibrand has called for.
"I made an impassioned plea about the 26,000 cases [outlined in a recent report on military sexual assaults] and the fact that only 3,000 are being reported, and only one in 10 are going to trial, and that what the victims are telling us is they don't trust the chain of command," she said on Morning Joe.
The senator said many victims report cases because they don’t think justice will be done.
"Of the people who do report, 62 percent are actually being retaliated against," she continued. "So the command climate is not such that a victim can come forward without thinking she'll lose her whole military career."
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