Military Justice System Called “Broken” As Few Sex Assault Cases Are Pursued


The Department of Defense estimates there are about 19,000 sexual assaults in the military per year. Only 1,108 troops filed for an investigation during the most recent yearly reporting period, NPR reports. In that period, 575 cases were processed – and of those, just 96 went to court-martial. Susan Burke, an attorney who has sued the Pentagon on behalf of many rape plaintiffs, calls it a “broken system.” At court-martial, the officer who convened the trial can change the charge, reduce the sentence, or even overturn the verdict. That’s what happened last month at the U.S. Air Base in Aviano, Italy. A military jury had convicted an officer of sexually assaulting a house guest while she was asleep. The general presiding over the case – the “convening authority,” in military-speak – threw out the verdict, without explanation. The Aviano case spurred a Senate subcommittee hearing last week, where senators grilled the Judge Advocate General from each of the services about the continuing issue of rape in the military.

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