Gillibrand urges more leadership from Hagel in sex assault cases

This week, Gillibrand and a dozen other lawmakers from both sides of the aisle introduced legislation that would transfer authority in sexual assault cases from the military to the judicial system. 

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The bill would bar military officials from overturning verdicts in such cases, and would transfer the decision to prosecute cases from the military to independent prosecutors.

“If those two things can be moved to the judicial system so a trained military prosecutor can make that decision about whether a case can go to trial, I think that’s going to begin to solve the problem,” she continued. “If you have 26,000 sexual assaults a year and only 3,000 reported, you have a large problem.”

While Gillibrand’s legislation has gained support in Congress, some military officials are resistant to the structural overhaul. Hagel this week said the “ultimate authority” about whether to prosecute should “remain within the chain of command.”

A Pentagon spokesman later walked that comment back, saying the Defense Secretary was open to all options.

“He’s left the door open, he’s said more options are on the table,” Gillibrand said. 

“So I’m hopeful that through advocacy and through working with our colleagues and with some bipartisan support in the House and Senate, we will begin to have a broader conversation about what types of structural changes will create the accountability and transparency and justice for victims that is sorely lacking right now.”