Amid controversy over a sexual assault conviction that was
later overturned by an Air Force General, California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier is stepping up her battle against a military sexual assault epidemic.In a press conference Wednesday, Speier announced the reintroduction of the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention, or STOP, Act.
“[There are] 19,000 rapes and sexual assaults that the [Department of defence] admits take place every year,” Speier said.
While many are never reported, the ones that are investigated hardly ever move forward. Of 3,192 cases reported in 2010, she said, only 191 saw convictions.
“This should be an alarming figure to everyone.”
The military justice system is similar to its civilian counterpart — there are investigations, juries, and judges — but unlike a civilian case, the military gives commanders outside of the courtroom the final call.
Speier’s bill aims to remedy that by creating an independent office within the military to handle investigations, medical services, and most importantly, prosecutions — removing the ability of a senior officer to overturn cases of sexual assault.
“Our servicemembers deserve a judicial system that relies on the facts of the case,” Speier said. “Not the whims of the commanders.”
This unique system was on full display in the case of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who allegedly fondled a female guest at his home and was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and other charges. After appealing to Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin — even telling him they once served together in Iraq — his case was overturned and he was back to active duty.
“That is not justice,” Rep. Speier said. “This general is not a lawyer. He has no legal training. This general never sat one hour in the courtroom.”
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