Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 20, 2013

Assault reforms debated

Niagara Gazette — WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., on Friday welcomed President Barack Obama's decision to draw a line in the sand when it comes to the military's dealing with a recent onslaught of sexual assault cases. 

In a statement released by her office following remarks made by Obama earlier in the day, Gillibrand also cautioned that the president's "deep commitment" to solving the military's sexual assault crisis needs to be backed by swift-moving reforms.  

"I do not want to wait another year to enact the one reform survivors have asked for in removing commanders with no legal training and conflicts of interest from the decision of whether or not to prosecute a rape or sexual assault," Gillibrand said. "We have the best fighting force in the world and they deserve a first class justice system. Nowhere in America do we allow a boss to decide if an employee was sexually assaulted or not, except the United States military. We owe our service members better.”

The Associated Press reported Friday that Obama has given the military a one-year deadline to better prevent and respond to a wave of sexual assault in the ranks and warned that if progress isn't made, he will consider tougher reforms than those approved by Congress.

The ultimatum from their commander in chief and pressure from lawmakers puts the onus on the Pentagon to live up to its vows of zero tolerance for sexual assault, or face the potential of losing authority to prosecute offenders in its own courts.

"So long as our women and men in uniform face the insider threat of sexual assault, we have an urgent obligation to do more to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes, as appropriate under the military justice system," Obama said in a statement issued hours after the Senate sent a bill for his signature that would crack down on the crime.

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