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Advocacy group object to lawmaker’s comments on military sex assault

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

An advocacy group for victims of military sexual assault objected to a U.S. congresswoman’s take during a TV interview yesterday on just how common the crime is.

“The numbers bandied about are not how many sexual assaults there have been,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” June 20. She was talking about a recent Defense Department report that 26,000 military members were subject to some form of unwanted sexual contact in 2012.

“That could be someone looking at you sideways and saying something about how nice you look in a sweater,” the senator said.

That’s simply not true, Protect Our Defenders said in a statement released after the interview yesterday.

“Sexual assault in the military is a vastly underreported crime and, until we have an impartial justice system, victims will continue to distrust their leaders and not come forward,” the organization said.

According to the DoD: Unwanted sexual contact “involves intentional sexual contact that was against a person’s will or occurred when the person did not or could not consent. The term describes completed and attempted oral, anal, and vaginal penetration with any body part or object, and the unwanted touching of genitalia and other sexually related areas of the body.”

McCaskill has been an outspoken critic of the military’s handing of sexual assault, calling for better protections for victims and a change to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that for decades has allowed commanders to overturn sex crime convictions. She has placed a permanent block on the nomination of an Air Force three-star general who in 2012 tossed out a sex assault conviction of a Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., captain.

McCaskill has stopped short of supporting a bill that would remove sexual assault cases entirely from the chain-of-command.

“If a commander is not in the process at the beginning,” the senator told MSNBC, “that woman goes back into that unit and the only one who signed off on her case going forward is a bunch of lawyers nobody knows as opposed to the commander saying this case needs to go forward.”

You can watch McCaskill’s interview here.

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