Weatherford Democrat

Columns

August 6, 2013

Someone to speak for and protect sexual assault victims

By SEN. JOHN CORNYN

WASHINGTON – A justice system cannot truly be just if it is not vested with the confidence of the people it is meant to serve.

This is as true for the military as it is for civilians.

In order for the system to work, people need to be able to trust that the system will dispassionately pursue the facts and protect the due process rights of all parties involved.

Victims of wrongdoing must be secure in the knowledge that they can rely on the system to deliver justice without needlessly exacerbating the wounds left by the crime committed against them.

When it comes to crimes of sexual assault, the military justice system is failing.

It has lost the trust of many of the people it is meant to serve and, as a consequence, an environment has been created in which these heinous acts can occur.

The status quo is unacceptable, and it is imperative that Congress and the military take corrective action to fix this problem.

One of the difficulties of bringing sexual predators to justice is the general lack of reporting by victims.

By one estimate, 89 percent of victims of sexual assault in the military do not report the crime committed against them. Consequentially, sexual predators in the military know that they are acting with a degree of unchecked impunity.

Increasing the reporting rate is a key component of tackling this scourge of sexual assaults within the ranks. Thus, we must ask: What is driving the low reporting rate and how do we reverse this trend?

The answer to the former is clear. In the military justice system, victims who come forward with formal accusations are sometimes submitted to humiliating rounds of intense interviews without an attorney present to help them understand what they are being asked about.

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