Last year, Congress changed the law to prevent U.S. military commanders from overturning jury verdicts. Several other reforms passed as well, reports the New York Times magazine. Those who accuse someone of a sex crime would be given their own military lawyers, known as special victims counsels. Accusers could immediately request a transfer from the base after reporting a sexual assault. Convicted rapists would be either dismissed or dishonorably discharged from the military. The question today is whether these changes have actually reduced the number of sexual assaults, encouraged victims to come forward and ensured justice when they did.
Next month, the Pentagon will release the 2014 gender-relations report, a biennial in-depth and anonymous survey that is supposed to capture true numbers of sexual assaults. Military officials hope it will reflect significant improvement resulting from last year's reforms. Vocal skeptics on Capitol Hill doubt that these measures will prove sufficient. Many of these lawmakers are women, including Representatives Niki Tsongas and Jackie Speier and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Claire McCaskill and Barbara Boxer, who became engaged with the issue after viewing “The Invisible War,” a 2012 documentary on the subject, as well as having numerous private meetings with women and men in uniform who had been sexually assaulted. The stories the military officers have told tend to feature a common element: the favoritism that commanders exhibit toward the accused and a lack of sympathy toward those who report such offenses.