In front of sometimes hostile interrogators, victims are forced to relive the attack they endured.
At the same time, according to one incident recounted in the San Antonio Express-News’ “Twice Betrayed” series, they may be subjected to disconcerting questions about their marriages, their sexual histories, and other personal details that bear little or no relevance to the case.
This, combined with the fear of retaliation and jeopardizing one’s career, creates a powerful disincentive for acts of sexual assault to be reported.
This dynamic must be eliminated, and I believe the best way to do so is to empower victims. To that end, I have co-sponsored legislation in the Senate that would require the military to provide a special victims’ counsel for victims of sexual assault.
These lawyers would give crucial assistance and legal advice to victims, standing at their sides and guiding them through the emotionally charged process.
Victims need to be informed of their rights. They need to have an ally who will help them stand up to the prying and intimidating questions of defense attorneys and sometimes overzealous criminal investigators.
They need to know that the injustice they endured will not go unpunished and that the guilty will be held accountable.
Finally, they need to know that the American people stand with them and that, together, we will not tolerate the status quo.
The legislation to create special victims’ counsels has broad support from across the ideological spectrum, and I am pleased that a version of it has already been added to both the Senate and House versions of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
We must push forward. We must put an end to these abuses that are ruining the lives of strong, patriotic Americans who choose to serve their country.
Failing to do so would represent a betrayal of the victims and a moral stain on our collective conscience.
Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance and Judiciary Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee.