TRIGGER WARNING, sexual assault
This year, a good friend of mine decided to sign with the United States Army. I was scared for her, she would be changing her entire life, her body, and would have to ship out to who knows where. I was nervous a war would break out with Syria, or she would be sent to Afghanistan. But then I saw the documentary The Invisible War. It played on campus, and I decided to see it. I didn’t know much about what goes on behind closed doors in the military ranks. My only exposure to military courts consisted of watching old JAG re-runs with my parents. After hearing each of the women’s stories, I had a new worry for my friend– sexual assault. The documentary showed me how prevalent sexual harassment and assault were in the many branches of the military. Not only that, but it was next to impossible to report the crime without being harassed, or court martial-ed for another crime such as adultery.
Women, and men, are left feeling extreme shame, and often left with injuries that the Veteran’s Affairs will not treat, because according to the system, that assault never happened. Military sexual assault used to be reported to the individual’s commander. Sometimes, that commander would know the offender and drop the charges. Sometimes, the commander would be the rapist. There was much bias in the court martial system, and there was no way to grant justice to the individuals who had been forced to experience so much pain both internally and externally. I asked my friend to watch the documentary before she signed officially, and she did. But joining the military was something she wanted to do. It is something every person wants to do before something bad happens to them. I trust she will be OK, she is an incredibly strong woman, but things need to change before she leaves for boot camp this summer.
Next week, the Senate is scheduled to vote on The Military Justice Improvement Act, the bill introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The basic gist of the bill is that we must take how the military tries sexual assault, and take it away from the chain of command. This bill proposes that instead, an unbiased individual will take on the case of the sexual assault. This is projected to make victims more comfortable coming forward when harassment or assault occurs. According to the New York Times, 50 percent more reports of assault occurred during the last fiscal year. This shows that sexual assault is not going away, and there needs to be a means of protecting the victims in a court of law. 1 in 3 women will be assaulted in the military, much higher than the 1 in 4 women in everyday situations. This shows that women are more likely to be raped in the military, and this needs to stop.
If anyone is interested, you can follow Senator Gillibrand on twitter @SenGillibrand, or you can follow the #PASSMJIA. If not on twitter, visit Gillibrand’s website about the bill http://www.kirstengillibrand.com/act/mjia and encourage your own senator to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act!