Gillibrand: 'We Have To Change The Way The System Is Set Up'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Sexual assault in the military has been on the rise to what some have called epidemic proportions.

Just recently, Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, who headed up the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Unit was arrested on sexual battery charges.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who serves as the chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, plans to address the issue next week with a newly drafted bill.

“According to the DOD’s own report, there are upwards of 26,000 cases every year or sexual assault and abuses in the military and our biggest challenge is that of those cases, there’s only about 3,300 that are even being reported. So obviously, these victims are feeling they will not receive justice within the military system,” Gillibrand told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott.

“I think we have to change the way the system is set up,” Gillibrand added.

The senator said this is not a new problem but said it’s time now to fix it.

“It is a huge problem when our men and women who sign up to serve in the military do so with great risk to themselves,” Gillibrand told Scott. “But nobody should be asked to be subjected to sexual assault and rape by their own colleagues.”

Gillibrand said more than half of the reported sexual assaults are against men.

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The bill Gillibrand will introduce next week would allow a victim to report their sexual abuse or assault directly to a prosecutor.

“If you are assaulted or raped, you should be able to report that crime outside of the chain of command. You should be able to report that crime to an experienced JAG prosecutor who actually understands what sexual assault and rape is and that the decision about whether your case is going to trial should not be made by the commanding officer. It should not be made by your boss,” Gillibrand told Scott.

The senator said the measure is about increasing transparency and accountability within the military.

The measure would also block commanders from overturning a jury’s verdict, which is something allowed now, Gillibrand said.

The senator said she’s hopeful that the growing number of women in high-ranking positions will help shine a light on the problem of sexual abuse within the military.

“We want to make sure that we have the best and the brightest serving and that they are protected,” said Gillibrand. “We have the greatest military in the world but in order to have the greatest military, we need to have transparency and accountability and crimes like this must go punished.”

Gillibrand said that while it is a daunting task, she’s confident once sexual abuse victims and witnesses know they will get an opportunity for justice, the tide will turn.

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