Call Senate NOW – Support Justice for Military Survivors of Assault
THE ISSUE: The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act (MJIIPA, S. 1520), sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), is in the National Defense Authorization Act FY 2022 (NDAA) and is currently being considered in the U.S. Senate. The MJIIPA would professionalize how the military prosecutes serious crimes via independent, experienced military prosecutors, among other improvements. This bipartisan legislation has 66 cosponsors and is on the way to adoption as part of the huge defense spending bill.
Recent reports found nearly 13,000 women and over 7,500 men experienced abuse and violence in the military. Studies have indicated that between 22%-84% of military service women report being sexually harassed or assaulted during their military service. Those who report these incidents often encounter retaliation or ostracism; only nine percent of reported cases end in convictions. It is estimated that sexual violence in the military costs taxpayers $3.5 billion a year.
A very important Amendment (3870) will be offered by Sen. Gillibrand to create a formal complaint process allowing sexual assault survivors and their families to file a formal claim for relief. The provision comes from the I am Vanessa Guillen Act which has been incorporated in the House version, H.R. 4104, the Vanessa Guillen Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), with 219 co-sponsors. Guillen was the Army Private found bludgeoned to death weeks after telling friends about experiencing harassment from a superior. She was also reportedly hesitant to complain about the harassment out of fear nothing would happen.
WHY IT MATTERS: Under the status quo, if you are an active-duty service member, you have no right or recourse for matters of sexual assault or misconduct. Senate Amendment 3870 would allow survivors and their families to file a claim for relief when:
- (1) a sex-related offense is committed by another member of the armed forces, or an employee of the Department of Defense and
- (2) when the military acts negligently in failing to prevent sex-related offenses.
Amendment 3870 is important because without the ability to file a claim, the service members have no means of obtaining relief. Without relief, there is no justice. This ensures accountability so that what happened to Vanessa Guillen NEVER happens again.
THE STATUS: When the Senate returns from the Thanksgiving recess on Monday, November 29th, the NDAA will be taken up again and Sen. Gillibrand will offer Amendment 3870. It is important to express your support of the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Protection Act. Sen. Gillibrand has been working to get this legislation adopted since 2013 and we need to make sure that it finally happens.
WHAT CAN I DO? Call or email your senators to urge them to support Sen. Gillibrand’s Amendment 3879, support the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act and ensure it stays in the National Defense Authorization Act. It is critically important that survivors of violence or family members can file a formal complaint.
HOW DO I DO IT? When the Senate returns from the Thanksgiving recess on Monday, November 29th, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to be connected to your senators’ offices.
Here is a directory of Senate members where you can find their phone numbers. You can also go to their websites at any time to send an email and find contact information on their in-state offices. Please leave a short message if you receive an automated answer; some members of Congress and their staff are continuing to work remotely.
WHAT DO I SAY?
Sexual harassment and assault remain very serious problems in all branches of the military with tens of thousands of incidents occurring each year. Survivors of sexual abuse and violence are often hesitant to file a complaint; a much better system to address complaints is desperately needed. The bipartisan Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act is in the defense spending bill and must finally be adopted. [SENATOR’S NAME] please do your part to assure that the Military Justice Improvement Act stays in the NDAA and also vote to add Sen. Gillibrand’s Amendment 3870 to the bill, so we can enable survivors of violence to come forward and expect that they will find justice.
- Comprehensive Resource Center for Military Justice Improvement Act, Kirsten Gillibrand | U.S. Senator for New York (senate.gov)
- ICYMI: 29 State Attorneys General Send Letter Urging Congress To Pass Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement And Increasing Prevention Act | Kirsten Gillibrand | U.S. Senator for New York (senate.gov)
- Office of People Analytics: 2018 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members
- NBC News: Slain soldier Vanessa Guillen had reported sexual harassment but leadership did nothing