Military Sexual Assault Reform Fails to Pass Senate

For two years in a row, a plan aimed at removing sexual assault crimes from the military justice system failed to pass the Senate.

The measure was sponsored by New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and was backed by 49 other senators, however, it failed to get the 60 votes needed to be included in the annual defense authorization bill.

While 50 senators were for the bill, 49 others were opposed to the change. In 2014, a similar effort was five votes short of passage.

Sen. Gillibrand said that if the American military does these reforms, that it will have fewer dangerous criminals and more heroes. Before the vote on June 16, she said that the brave men and women sent off to war to keep us safe deserve nothing less than a justice system that equals their sacrifice.

Gillibrand’s reform plan has been met with mixed opinions across the Senate party lines, with several Republicans breaking ranks to show their support for the changes.

In the past, military leaders have argued that removing sexual assault cases from the military justice system would work against the military’s efforts to enact cultural changes.

Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill led the charge against Gillibrand’s changes. McCaskill pointed out how every aspect of the chain of command is responsible. She said that it’s their job to train troops, to maintain good order and discipline, and to prevent rapes from being committed under their command, and to punish acts of retaliation.

Gillibrand explained that the rate of assaults in the military has seen virtually no change in the past four years, with an average of 52 new cases every day.

In a Pentagon survey released in May, it estimated that the military saw more than 19,000 sexual assaults in 2014, with over half of the cases involving male-on-male crimes.

Gillibrand argued that retaliation was so prevalent that the majority of sexual assaults are never reported. She believes that every military victim of sexual assault deserves due process.

In recent years, Congress has passed various sexual assault reforms that are separate from Gillibrand’s measure, some of which are new laws aimed at putting an end to retaliation for reporting crimes.


Have you been accused of committing sexual assault? If so, the sooner you retain legal representation, the better you’ll be able to protect your rights and your military career. Contact Crisp & Associates, LLC to schedule a free consultation with a military defense lawyer.