Violence in the Military
Sexual violence within the military has long been an item that is not often discussed. However, with recent criminal cases like that of Vanessa Guillen the topic has been becoming more and more mainstream. As of 2012, there were over 1.4 million service people within the United States Armed Forces. It is estimated that out of these people, approximately 26,000 have been victim to unwanted sexual touches. The numbers increase dramatically when other forms of sexual violence are added in. Equally as alarming, estimates suggest that over 65% of female military members and 81% of male military members do not report this violence to their superiors.
Traditionally, reports of sexual violence are sent up the chain of command that a victim is within. As you can imagine, being forced to report an assault to your superior is not often the route that most people would like to take when reporting an assault. Moreover, if a perpetrator is within that chain of command, it further muddies the already murky waters. In 2010, 1714 cases were reported that were eligible for disciplinary action against a perpetrator, however, only 594 cases went to the military courts for review. That is only 34% of cases making it to the courts!!! However, President Joe Biden has recently made efforts to change the way that the military responds to violent crimes within its ranks. Via executive order, President Biden has adjusted the pathway that violent crimes are reported within the military. Starting in December, reports and prosecution will be filtered away from the military chain of command. The new team that will be receiving reports and prosecuting perpetrators will be known as the Offices of Special Trial Council (OSTC). This council will be comprised of independent military prosecutors who will make decisions regarding violent crimes. Beginning in January of 2025, this council will also begin reviewing cases of sexual harassment.
Hopefully, this change allows those who have been victimized by violence within the military to feel more empowered to come forward should they wish to report the crime. You can read the full summary of the Executive Order here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2023/07/28/fact-sheet-president-biden-to-sign-executive-order-implementing-bipartisan-military-justice-reforms/