Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said on Sunday that military commanders should handle sexual assault claims because they are more likely to move forward with investigations.
“We know that commanders are making these cases go forward,” she continued. “Over 100 times in the last two years. Under the alternative, that’s almost 100 victims that would’ve not have had their day in court.”
Critics of McCaskill’s proposal have said that sexual assault victims may be less likely to report crimes to commanders who oversee their units for fear of retaliation.
But McCaskill said Sunday that sexual assaults are “a crime that will always been under reported because of the nature of the crime.
“If we look at our allies, who have changed their system, frankly not to protect victims, but to protect perpetrators…reporting has not gone up,” McCaskill said.
“Retaliation is not going to magically go away just because a lawyer a long way away has made a decision as opposed to a commander. And we know commanders are making the decision to go forward more often than the lawyers.”
McCaskill said she was confident Congress would pass a new set of rules for addressing sexual assaults in the military before the end of the year.
“I don’t know that the Pentagon is going to do enough, but I know that in our reforms, we are going to make major changes,” she said. “The status quo is not acceptable. The reforms that we’re working on, that will become law before the end of the year, will prioritize protecting victims and they’re going to lead to more prosecutions.”
The idea of creating a system were sexual assault cases are handled by an independent lawyer has been floated by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
McCaskill said on Sunday that the proposal would not make enough improvements to the current situation in the military.
“The alternative that’s been proposed would have less prosecution based on what we know about the current system,” she said.
“The right answer is making sure these cases do go forward. If you have outside lawyers that are making this decision, sometimes a continent away, if they say 'no,' it’s over.”