Attorney General Tong Urges Congress to Reform Military Justice for Sexual Assault Survivors(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today joined a bipartisan coalition of 29 attorneys general led by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, calling on Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021. The legislation, which has strong bipartisan support, would reshape the manner in which the United States military investigates and prosecutes sexual assault.
“Far too often, military sexual assault is swept under the rug and victims remain in the shadows, afraid to report their assault. Congress must pass the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act to better ensure every victim feels empowered to report their assault,” Attorney General Tong said. “I want to thank Senator Richard Blumenthal for helping to lead this bill — survivors of sexual assault deserve justice and these reforms are long overdue. To all survivors: we see you, we believe you and we support you.”
In today’s letter, the coalition highlights the need to address serious, longstanding problems in underreporting and prosecuting sexual assaults in the military. The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would better the military’s prosecution of serious crimes like sexual assault. The Act addresses widespread reluctance to report sexual assault due to bias in the military chain of command’s power to decide whether cases move forward to a trial. The Act would instead ensure that decisions about whether to prosecute sexual assault or domestic violence crimes are made by independent, trained, professional military prosecutors while leaving uniquely military crimes within the chain of command.
Additionally, the Act requires increased sexual assault prevention training for military personnel, as well as added instruction for prosecutors on the proper conduct, presentation, and handling of sexual assault and domestic violence cases. If passed, the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act would constitute the largest change to the military justice system in the last 70 years.
Each year, thousands of service members experience sexual assault. Of those, only a small percentage ever report their assault – often because they fear retaliation. In many cases, the assailant is someone in the service member’s own chain of command, creating an additional risk of retaliation. Even when sexual assaults are reported, only a handful of perpetrators are held accountable; in fact, only approximately 9% of assaults result in a conviction.
Joining Tong, Raoul and Peterson in calling on Congress to pass the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act are the attorneys general of Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.