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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gillibrand Renews Push For Military Sexual Assault Reforms

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks at a news conference supporting passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act November 19, 2013 in Washington, DC. The legislation would help address increasing numbers of sexual assaults in the U.S. military by establishing an independent military justice system. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks at a news conference supporting passage of the Military Justice Improvement Act November 19, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The legislation would help address increasing numbers of sexual assaults in the U.S. military. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The House and Senate are rushing to pass a new defense bill by the end of the year. The bill that’s been agreed on in committee does not include a key reform aimed at stemming sexual assaults in the military.

Democratic U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York had put forth that amendment, which would take sexual assault cases out of the chain of command — meaning that victims would report cases directly to law enforcement, instead of their military commander.

This week, her measure was stripped out when the House and Senate armed services committees struck a deal to pass the National Defense Authorization Act with no amendments. Now, Gillibrand’s reform will have to pass as a standalone measure.

Gillibrand joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the measure and what happens now.

“This a long journey and this is a long-term reform that is necessary in order to deal with the fact there were 26,000 sexual assaults, rapes and unwanted sexual contact last year, and only 3,000 victims felt they could come forward,” she says. “It’s a breach of trust in the chain of command, and that’s what the victims tell us — they’re not reporting these cases because they don’t trust the chain of command to do anything or to protect them from retaliation.”

Says she expects an up or down vote on a standalone bill in January.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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