Reports of Military Sexual Assaults up by 50% as Top Navy Nominee Raises Ire

Friday, November 08, 2013
Jo Ann Rooney (AP Photo)

The U.S. military was hit on two political fronts recently, both involving the controversy of sexual assaults in the armed forces.


A new report produced by the Department of Defense showed sexual assaults rose significantly during much of the last fiscal year. Figures showed 3,553 sexual assault complaints were reported to the military from October 2012 through June, representing a nearly 50% increase over the same period a year earlier.


The statistics included cases of rape, sodomy and other unwanted sexual contact, but not sexual harassment.


Military officials tried to spin the numbers as a positive sign that victims were more willing to come forward about sexual assaults.


Meanwhile, members of Congress are seeking reforms to the military’s system for handling such cases. Lawmakers like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) want to overhaul the military justice system by preventing commanders from being able to interfere in the punishment of those found guilty of sexual attacks. She is offering an amendment to the upcoming defense bill that would bring about that change.


Gillibrand also has blocked the confirmation of Jo Ann Rooney, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to be undersecretary of the Navy.


The Democratic senator was incensed when Rooney told a Senate committee last month that removing commanders from the process was a bad idea.


“A judge advocate outside the chain of command will be looking at a case through a different lens than a military commander,” Rooney said, according to the Associated Press. “I believe the impact would be decisions based on evidence rather than the interest in preserving good order and discipline.”


Gillibrand responded by saying publicly: “The United States legal system is based on evidence, justice and due process. Why isn’t this good enough for our service members who risk everything to protect those freedoms?”


She added, “Jo Ann Rooney’s testimony should send chills down the spine of any member of the armed services seeking justice.”


Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) said she was shocked by Rooney’s statement. “It sickened me,” she told the Associate Press.


Rooney clarified her position in writing, saying she didn’t mean to suggest that commanders don’t consider evidence. But she reiterated her position that commanders should remain involved in the decision to punish service members.


Her nomination continues to be held up in the Senate by Gillibrand.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Reports of Military Sexual Assault Rise Sharply (by Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times)

Furious Senator Blocking Navy Pick over Remarks (by Donna Cassata, Associated Press)

Here’s Why the Navy’s Legal System is Incapable of Dealing with Sexual Assault Cases (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

In Senate Testimony, Military Leaders Reject Calls to Remove Sexual Assault Cases from Chain of Command (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

85,000 Vets Treated for Sexual Abuse Injuries and Trauma in 2012 (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)         


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