May 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Sen. Jack Reed backs military sexual assault prosecutions overhaul

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, May 18

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed during a hearing on Capitol Hill last Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) announced his support Sunday for "changing the role" of military commanders in the prosecution of sexual assault cases, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Reed's announcement indicates he'll back a bipartisan plan driven by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to appoint independent prosecutors to oversee allegations of sexual assault in the military.

  • Gillibrand said an increase in assaults and drop in prosecutions shows "the current system is not working for survivors," per WashPost.
  • The issue received national attention last year following the death of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén. An investigation found that the chain of command had failed to address the sexual harassment she faced before she was killed.

What he's saying: "Sexual assault and harassment are pervasive problems in the U.S. military and American culture and we must take comprehensive action to halt sexual violence, hold violators accountable, and support survivors," Reed said in a statement to news outlets.

  • He noted the Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military had "largely accepted" Gillibrand's proposal on handling sexual assault prosecutions. 
  • "With that in mind, the IRC’s recommendation to change the role of the chain of command in the prosecution of sexual assault cases will be included in the Chairman's mark that we will soon take up," Reed said.

What to expect: "At the end of conference, I fully expect a robust change in the role of the commander in sexual assault cases will be sent to President Biden for signature," Reed said.  

  • "While the first round of reform will focus on the issue of accountability, I hope and intend to incorporate the IRC's recommendations on prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support as we move through the legislative year."

Go deeper: Top general no longer opposes change in sexual assault policy

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