A group of U.S. lawmakers from both parties announced Thursday that they are proposing legislation to hand over prosecution of sexual assaults on and by U.S. military personnel to civilian authorities. According to Bloomberg News, the officials are taking the action as evidence mounts suggesting that the military is either incapable of or uninterested in policing its own ranks with regards to sexual assaults on women.
“It’s clear that our system is broken,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in a press conference reported by Bloomberg.
Military commanders have opposed such a move for years, saying that crimes committed within the military should be handled by military police. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has expressed his own resistance to the change in enforcement and Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said on Wednesday that he was not personally ready to allow civilian authorities to take jurisdiction over sexual assaults in the military.
“The military is going to have to figure this out,” Reid said at the news conference, “because it’s not working. I saw Hagel, rightfully so, said we need to give more training so that the people in these positions know more,” but the Senator stopped short of saying that civilian authorities should step in.
Just days ago, it was revealed that an Army sergeant first class stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas and who worked for a program to prevent sexual assaults in the military is himself guilty of forcing a female subordinate into having sex for pay with other soldiers.
The Pentagon declined to name the sergeant or his victim, but said that an investigation by special agents has begun in order to establish charges of “pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.”
After successfully selling his first victim’s sexual services to another service-member, the sergeant reportedly attempted the same type of coercion with another female enlisted person. She refused, resisting his advances and contacting authorities.
Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, head of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team allegedly tried to force himself upon a woman in the parking lot of a bar not far from the Pentagon after midnight on May 5. Krusinski apparently groped the woman’s breasts and buttocks. She fought him off and called police, who charged Krusinski with misdemeanor sexual battery.
“These latest allegations of criminal behavior by yet another sexual-assault prevention and response coordinator are appalling and show the need for fundamental reforms,” said Nancy Parrish to Bloomberg. Parrish directs Protect Our Defenders, a support group for sexual assault survivors in the military. ““The Pentagon is responsible for failing to effectively govern its personnel.”
“When any victim of sexual assault is forced to salute her attacker,” Gillibrand said to reporters Thursday, “clearly our system is broken.”
Watch video of Gillibrand’s press conference, embedded below: