Norris dismissed the military justice system’s treatment of sexual assault cases as “encumbered with personal bias, conflicts of interest and abuse of authority.”
According to an early draft of a report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights discussed at a Capitol Hill hearing earlier this month, about 4% of female service members experience some form of sexual assault annually compared with 1% of male service members. In fiscal year 2011, the Armed Services completed 2,353 investigations of reported sexual assaults, a “small fraction” of the total estimated sexual assaults, according to the report.
Norris noted that 39% of female military sexual assault victims reported that their assailant was of a higher rank and 23% reported it was someone within their chain of command.
“We have seen too many instances where a bad command at all levels can and does end a good soldier’s career. How many cases of sexual assault did Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who faces a court-martial for allegedly sexually assaulting his subordinates, sweep under the rug?” Norris said.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair was removed from command in Afghanistan in May and is accused of engaging in improper sexual relationships with subordinate female officers and a civilian. He deferred entering a plea to criminal charges at his court-martial Tuesday at Ft. Bragg, N.C.
“The cycle of repeated scandals, self-investigations, and ineffective reforms – must be broken,” Norris said.
She and Burke called for the creation of an independent system for investigating and prosecuting military sexual assaults outside of the chain of command. Legislation that would establish such a system, the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, was introduced by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) two years ago, with the support of Protect our Defenders and other advocates, but it never passed.