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Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Military Sexual Assault Gains Traction

Caroline Brehman/Pool Photo via AP

A bipartisan group of senators is on the cusp of passing a years-long effort to implement legislation aimed at combatting sexual assault in the military. The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would strip commanding officers of their ability to try cases of rape and sexual assault and appropriate punishment. 

Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) spearheaded the effort to crack down on sex crimes within military ranks. Ernst, a combat veteran and survivor of military sexual assault herself, said that the bill will increase accountability. 

“For quite some time now, my colleague and friend, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, has pushed for completely changing the way military sexual assault crimes are processed within the chain of command — giving a trained prosecutor, not a commanding officer, the ability to decide whether a crime was committed,” Ernst wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. “We both agreed that perpetrators should be held more accountable. But as someone who has commanded troops, I was not fully convinced that forcing a commanding officer out of the decision-making process would actually make the culture for sexual assault survivors better.” 

After years of advocating for the bill's reforms, Ernst and Gillibrand believe that the legislation now has enough support to overcome the Senate filibuster threshold. 

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