On Tuesday, Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul joined Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in her push to pass new legislation that would remove the chain of command from military sexual assault cases. Senator Gillibrand argues that women in the military are afraid to report rapes, and when they do report them, the crimes are not always prosecuted.
People of conscience want sexual assault victims to report. We want sexual offenders to be duly processed and punished. We want individuals wrongly accused to suffer as little harm as possible as they clear their names. We share these broad goals, though we may differ about specific means of achieving them.
I respect Senator Gillibrand for formulating a proposal. I respect Senators Cruz and Paul for crossing the aisle to support legislation they believe in. I am unpersuaded, however, that this bill would adequately and fairly address the problem.
Legislation like Gillibrand’s treats as unique a problem that is not. Relevant statistics suggest that young women may be at no greater risk of being sexually assaulted in the military than being sexually assaulted on a college or university campus. Why propagate a message of fear that sending our daughters (or ourselves) into the service amounts to handing them over to an unpatrolled, unrepentant rape culture, but shipping off young women to college is relatively safe? Why send the message that our women are more likely to be raped by a fellow Marine than by a frat brother from Sigma Chi?