Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) stripped a measure proposed by fellow Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) that would have taken sexual assault reporting out of the chain of command out of a defense spending bill on Tuesday.
Gillibrand’s bill, which had 27 co-sponsors -- four of which were Republicans, was opposed by military personnel as well as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. The bill also received lukewarm support from Democratic leadership. Levin promised an alternative measure that would allow other commanders to review cases of sexual assault.
Protect our Defenders, a group that advocates on behalf of victims of military sexual assault, said in a statement emailed to Raw Story:
We are disappointed. We have still not seen any concrete examples that indicates commanders can or will fairly and without bias adequately handle the responsibility of sexual assault cases. The authority needs to be moved out of the normal chain of command. Senator Levin's proposal is insufficient. It is another half measure that will essentially kick the can down the road.
Senator Levin's proposal to hold generals responsible for failing to prosecute sexual assault, does not address the significant problem facing victims. It is the low-level commanders who hold the initial disposition authority that can prevent a sexual assault case from ever moving forward. These unit commanders hold the keys to the courthouse, in that they can unilaterally dispose of a case before it ever gets to the general or admiral level. Without addressing this issue, Senator Levin's bill will have very little effect, if any, in military justice.
NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell reported that Gillibrand plans to make another attempt at adding her amendment to the defense spending bill when it comes up for a final vote later this summer.
The Pentagon released a report earlier this year that estimated as many as 26,000 sexual assaults occurred in the armed forces in 2012 -- breaking down to an estimated 70 per day. The military has also seen a number of horrifying sexual assault cases in which commanders have overturned convictions of assailants, victims have endured retribution and top officials were said to have "looked the other way."
Levin's removal of the measure comes just a week after top brass testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on how the military should address its problem of sexual assault. In that hearing, the victims said that measures taken against sexual assault thus far have been insufficient.
“My daughter reported her rape to her chain of command,” one Washington state woman testified. “But she was denied every single level of care.”
Watch the report, broadcast on NBC's "Today" show on June 12.