Dr. Benishek Leads Bipartisan Effort to Stop Military Sexual Assault

May 16, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC:   Dr. Dan Benishek (MI-01) today introduced bipartisan legislation to address the high level of sexual assaults that occur in the U.S. Military.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the same legislation in the U.S. Senate.  

“Right now, too many sexual assaults in our military go unreported. Many soldiers are uncomfortable reporting the details of these traumatic events.  My daughter is a military veteran, so I know exactly the kind of hard-working women we have in our armed forces.  This situation is a travesty and we need to fix it now,” said Dr. Benishek, a general surgeon and Michigan’s only member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. 

“America is home to the world’s best and brightest, brave men and women who join the armed services for all the right reasons – to serve our country, defend all that we hold sacred, and make America’s military the best the world has ever known. Our bipartisan bill takes this issue head on by removing decision-making from the chain of command, and giving that discretion to experienced trial counsel with prosecutorial experience where it belongs. That’s how we will achieve accountability, justice and fairness,” said New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. 

Dr. Benishek’s legislation, the “Military Justice Improvement Act,” will reform the way sexual assault cases are prosecuted by giving an experienced military attorney outside of the victim’s chain of command the ability to bring a case to trial. Similar to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent guidance, the bill would also prohibit a commanding officer from overturning a conviction.

The Department of Defense (DOD) reports that 47 percent of servicemembers say they are afraid to report sexual assault or sexual harassment out of fear of retaliation, and more than 50 percent fear their confidentially will not be maintained.  In 2012, the DOD estimates that 87% of sexual assaults went unreported. 

“We need to reform how the military handles sexual assault cases and make sure victims aren’t afraid to report a crime. It’s really a bipartisan push to get something done.  I want to thank Senator Gillibrand for her bold leadership on this effort.  As a doctor, I’m used to working with others to find solutions. There are no Democrats or Republicans in the operating room—only team work.  That’s how it should be and that’s exactly what we are doing,” added Dr. Benishek.

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