After eight years of effort, legislation to reshape and improve how the US military handles allegations of sexual misconduct appears to finally have enough bipartisan votes to gain passage.
The bill called the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would move sexual harassment and assault cases out of the military chain of command to instead be handled by trained military prosecutors.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a backer of the bill, says she believes the bill now has 60 bipartisan supporters in the Senate, enough to put it into law. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a combat veteran who was previously on the fence regarding the bill, has joined Gillibrand in backing it, encouraging other senators to follow suit.
In addition to moving sexual misconduct cases out for third-party litigation, the bill would also institute preventive measures to combat sexual assault.
Sexual assault and harassment consistently go underreported and unchecked in the US military. The Pentagon reported that in 2019, about 20,500 service members had experienced some form of sexual assault, but the internal management of these cases means many are ignored or denied altogether.
Moving case management out of the chain of command means greater accountability for perpetrators of assault, especially high-ranking officials, and greater justice for victims whose voices have been silenced for too long.
We will continue to follow this story and hopefully see it officially voted into law in the near future.