President Obama Signs Bill to Combat Sexual Assault in the Military

Written by Carimah Townes

The day after Christmas, President Obama signed a defense bill with provisions to curb sexual assault in the U.S. military. Under the new law, anyone who engages in sexual assault will face dishonorable discharge, commanders are prevented from reversing jury decisions, legal assistance will be provided for victims, and “retaliation” against a victim will be punished.

The bill came in response to a Department of Defense report issued earlier this year, which claimed there were 26,000 victims of assault in the military in 2012. In the previous year, 19,000 assaults were disclosed from 2010. The numbers were not comprehensive, however, omitting additional accounts of sexual harassment, or “unwanted gender-related behavior.” The 26,000 figure also excludes quid-pro-quo intimidation, according to which victims are blackmailed into committing sexual acts in return for job security or career advancement. Repeated assaults are also discounted, as are assaults against civilians.

According to the Department of Defense, roughly 86 percent of assaults go unreported, as victims fear punishment — including job termination — for speaking out.

The issue of sexual assault in the military was first tackled in Congress in March 2013, when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led a hearing, hosted by the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Personnel, to investigate the problem. During the hearing, victims shared their tragic accounts, and testimony was heard from high-ranking law experts in the armed forces. Since then, Sen. Gillibrand and other members of Congress have sought to challenge the epidemic.

Although the bill is considered a positive development, many argue the newly instated regulations are not drastic enough. In contrast to Sen. Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, which called for independent authorities to oversee and prosecute assault claims, the new bill still grants victims’ commanders the power to hear assault claims and administer punishment — a policy that often leads to inaction or failure to hold perpetrators accountable.


This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Great!! About time!

James Wilcox
James Wilcox2 years ago

I agree Dennis. I worked in a large metropolitan zoo and was confronted by cockroaches and mice on a daily basis. If zoos are made so clean they are antiseptic, animals' immune systems become unresponsive to even minor infections.

Dennis D.
Dennis D.2 years ago

James W. Not obscured. It is now being discussed and seen that any rape is a violent act that should never be condoned. Whether in a prison, in the military, or any where at all. Far from being obscured a light is being shined on the very cockroaches that perpetuate and make excuses for these abhorrent acts against any one.

My apologies to the cockroaches of the world. As an insect it does provide a service in nature.

James Wilcox
James Wilcox2 years ago

Dale, did I say somewhere that men weren't the perpetrators of rape against other men in the military? I simply stated the majority of rapes in the military have male victims, not that they were perpetrated by the small number of female soldiers.

Now, like prison rape (the origin of the term "rape culture"), the reality of rape in the military is now obscured as a woman's issue.

Dale O.

John M states: "This is a good start,for now, but next should be means to stop women from using sex as their personal tool to control men..."

My, my, are those brazen women not 'abstaining' often enough?

"Personal tool?" Those 'vixens'! "Control men?" I think that historically women have been controlled by men with their sexist attitudes and laws for far too long. Just which century are you living in?

James W: "Phil P: There has always been rape in the military. The majority of sexual assaults, even today, are perpetrated against men."

Still on your campaign of women are always 'suspect' and out to rape males are you? While some women have sexually abused males, women are still raped and abused by males far more often.

Dale O.

Robert H, is an evolved male, while Robert P is still lurking in the fog of the 19th Century. Did your time machine get lost again? This 'gem' from Robert P: "Women are getting sexually violated by their own companions. If that wasn't bad enough, now they want to join them in combat. What and why?"

It's called equality, Robert P. Ever hear of it? Women have the right to employment and choosing careers that interest them. Assuming these are male adults in the military that have somehow learned to reign in their 'raging hormones' from their teenage years. There are women astronauts in close quarters with male astronauts. Interesting, there is a woman on his profile photo. I wonder what she thinks of his 'sense of justice.' His profile under "What I want to do states: "Help the world become aware". Before trying that, I suggest that you become aware of what sexist attitudes are.

Someone warm up the engines of TARDIS and quickly escort Robert P back to the correct century. The 21st Century is obviously not to his liking and he needs to evolve before he visits the present century again.

Dennis D.
Dennis D.2 years ago

Robert P.
6:44am PST on Dec 30, 2013
No amount of Legislation or $$$ will ever curb a patriotic trooper from satisfying his cupidious lubricity & desires under the elms. You females insist on joining the military? Be prepared for any unforeseen circumstance.

Read more:

Well wasn't that just so misogynist of you..

Robert a little FYI.. Those same women are protecting your right to make misogynist remarks as well.. You might want reconsider those remarks. Just a helpful suggestion.

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm2 years ago

WOnderful Robert P so we are all simply animals who cant control any urges eh?? WE have no character not ethics?? WE will blame the victim becuase men need sex soooooooooo much more than women??? BULLSHIT. If Men cant control their urges they are not MEN. They are puppys. Where sle shouldnt women work Robert??? After all Men are everywhere. Should we not have women in the police force too because men are so uncontrollable??? Are you really willing to make that statement avbout your own gender?? Are we rally this shallow??

Rosemary Rannes
Rosemary Rannes2 years ago

Women in the military who are sexually violated are dismissed as liars, intimidated and threatened to keep quiet etc. We can only hope that signing this will ensure women's safety but I am not convinced it will. As Cathleen stated previously here, the loss of self control is an epidemic that must be recognize and dealt with rather than denied.

Martin Hill
Martin Hill2 years ago

The whole thing makes me shudder. If this is how these servicemen treat their comrades imagine how they treat the women of the countries they occupy. Mind blowing! We need to see a lot of court marshalls & stiff sentences to make future perpetrators think twice.I wonder how much this is a problem in the Canadian military? Check out the madman called Russell Willams,now rotting in a Canadian jail, a senior man in our military, guilty of rape & murder.