Kirsten GIllibrand News Feed Kirsten Gillibrand News Feed Mon, 12 Sept 2011 05:00:00 +0000 AMPS en hourly 1 Kirsten Gillibrand gears up for another round Wed, 07 Jan 2015 11:00:00 -0500 A dozen colleagues promised Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in March that if the Pentagon didn’t shape up, they would reconsider her proposal to take sexual assault cases out of the chain of command.

Ten months later, she’s coming to collect.


The New York Democrat told POLITICO that she’s been in talks with the Democratic and Republican senators who voted against her bill to change the way the military handles sexual assault cases but promised to keep an open mind about changing their stance. She is pushing them to read a recent Defense Department report that found that 62 percent of those who reported an assault faced retaliation — evidence, she says, that the current military justice process isn’t working. And she’s hoping President Barack Obama will weigh in on her side as she lobbies to get another vote in the new Congress under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a Republican who has supported her bill.


Her efforts last year fell just five votes short of overcoming a filibuster, but she will continue to face significant opposition, including from Republicans and Democrats like Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill who have pushed other serious reforms at the Pentagon to curb assaults.


Still, Gillibrand and others who want a major overhaul of the World War II-era military justice system, in which commanders can decide which cases get pursued, see 2015 as a critical year.

The Colbert Report: Kirsten Gillibrand Wed, 05 Nov 2014 11:00:00 -0500 ]]> Bringing Voter Registration Into The 21st Century Sat, 25 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0500 Q: What is the Voter Registration Modernization Act and how is it different from all of the other bills on voting rights coming before Congress this year? 
The Voter Registration Modernization Act is a bill to expand online voter registration to all states. This is a measure that was taken from the Voter Empowerment Act (S. 123) which I introduced at the beginning of the 113th Congress in partnership with Civil Rights activist, Congressman John Lewis. This bill is different from other election reform measures in that it promotes the idea that our voter registration system should be modernized by allowing eligible voters to have the option of registering to vote online.  

Q: Why is this a priority to you? 
As we approach the 2014 election cycle, it is critically important that every American eligible to vote has many opportunities as possible to register to vote. Online voter registration has been implemented in more than 20 states and is effective in increasing the accuracy of voter rolls, minimizing data entry records by election administrators, and saving states millions of dollars in administrative costs. This is a common sense measure that should be expanded to every state.  

Q: What are the arguments against supporting the Voter Registration Modernization Act?
To date, there have been no groups that have come out against the Voter Registration Modernization Act. It is simply a bill that takes paper voter registration into an online format. This is an idea that several Republican secretaries of states have already implemented and we hope to expand it to states currently without such a system.   
Q: Do you believe not allowing online registration is a form of voter suppression? 
Unfortunately, voter suppression goes beyond simply registering to vote. But it is my belief that having an online voter registration system will help clear up the inefficiencies in our current voter registration system by improving the accuracy of voter rolls and minimizing data entry errors by election administrators. 

Seeking a Level Playing Field: Kirsten Gillibrand and Julianna Margulies Share More Than Fame Sun, 26 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0500 When Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and the actress Julianna Margulies met at the Crosby Street Hotel recently, the talk turned quickly to such serious subjects as body shaming, sexual harassment in the military and rape on college campuses.

But first there were a couple of sartorial adjustments to be made. Ms. Margulies, 48, a three-time Emmy-winning actress (two for her starring role in “The Good Wife,” including one this year, and another for “ER”), leaned over to straighten the lapel of Ms. Gillibrand’s navy suit jacket.

“Hang on a second,” Ms. Gillibrand said a moment later, as the photographer began to shoot. The junior Democratic senator from New York, 47, an upstate representative to Congress before that, and the author of the recent best-selling memoir “Off the Sidelines,” tucked back a stray lock of Ms. Margulies’s hair. “I want her to look her best.”

And then, over coffee and sparkling water, the conversation began.

Philip Galanes: The first things I found, researching both of you, were these sexist comments about your bodies. Remarks by various congressmen to Kirsten, “I like my ladies chubby,” or calling you fat when you were pregnant.


 ‘We can teach our boys that girls may be different, but those differences are good.’ - Kirsten GillibrandCreditJolie Ruben for The New York Times

Kirsten Gillibrand: And he was trying to be nice. This congressman said to me: “You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat.”

PG: She was eight months pregnant.

Julianna Margulies: My God! How did you react?

KG: I just smiled and thought, “This is crazy.” But it didn’t affect me. I was a member of Congress.

JM: That is why I could never be in politics. My industry is tough enough.

PG: That’s what I thought until I Googled you the day after you won your Emmy and found an Internet frenzy about your arms being too skinny. “She must gain weight!” What’s at the root of this craziness?

JM: The most important thing is not to go on the Internet — because I didn’t know any of that until you said it.

PG: Oops. Sorry.

KG: But this issue affects all women. In politics, studies show that when women’s looks are commented on in a campaign, it undermines their credibility — even if the comment is positive. It makes us seem less qualified. When I ran my first campaign, my opponent started with: “Oh, she’s just a pretty face.”

Up Close: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Sun, 28 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0500 New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is telling women to get off the sidelines.

She's on a mission to get more women involved in the political process.

Gillibrand was a little known congresswoman from Columbia County when she was appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton back in 2009.

Since then she has emerged as one of the most influential voices in American politics.

She has written a new book, "Off The Sidelines", and is encouraging women to speak up, and get involved.

2014 Women Who Dare: Kirsten Gillibrand Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0500 New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand is right on time for her Harper's Bazaar photo shoot, a diminutive figure striding down the sidewalk near Times Square. For a woman consistently described as "petite," Gillibrand has a massive presence, even as she thrusts out her hand and chirps, "Hi! How are you?" in a girlish voice. She is then whisked to a rooftop high above Manhattan, where our photographer asks her to lean backward over the ledge of the building—in four-inch heels, no less. "Okay," Gillibrand says, steeling herself. "But can somebody just hold my hand while I get settled?"

Albert Watson

Since her appointment to the Senate in 2009—replacing Hillary Clinton, whom Gillibrand calls a "role model and mentor"—the Albany native has been willing to stick her neck out. One of her first legislative victories came in 2010, when she helped to repeal the controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays in the military. "When I first started testing the waters to see if my colleagues would support it, one said to me, 'Why are you doing this now? It's so inconvenient,'" she says. "I knew it would make people uncomfortable."

Essay: Bring criminals, colleges to account Sat, 30 Aug 2014 11:00:00 -0500 As summer winds down and vacations come to an end, millions of students are preparing to return to campuses across the country, ready to thrive, cultivate friendships and grow with the highest of aspirations. They do so with the reasonable expectation that their campuses will be safe.

Yet for far too many young women, the American college experience is much darker. On campuses across the country, sexual assault crimes are ignored or hidden, leaving students on their own and without support when they need it most. A grassroots movement of brave students is imploring Congress to fix this.

These students are motivated by a shameful truth: If you are a young woman and you attend college in America, you are more likely to be sexually assaulted than a woman in America who does not attend college. Think about that. It doesn't matter where you go to school; it doesn't matter if the campus is big or small, urban or rural, public or private.

In case after case, university administrations duck away from controversy, fearful that application numbers might plummet if word gets out. Our students deserve better than this. The price of a college education should not include a one-in-five chance of being sexually assaulted.

Last month, with nine of my Senate colleagues — five Republicans and four other Democrats — we announced the introduction of a new bill that will finally force America's colleges to face this problem aggressively, with the goal of making America's campuses safe. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act is a common-sense solution to a problem that colleges have been unwilling or unable to solve themselves.

Gillibrand turns empathy into political stock in trade Mon, 01 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0500 Former New York Gov. David Paterson first met with Kirsten Gillibrand to discuss her possible appointment to the U.S. Senate the day after "Saturday Night Live" had lampooned him as a bumbling Mr. Magoo type — a dig at his blindness.

Paterson's gubernatorial staff found the skit funny, but the governor found it "insulting with a 70 percent unemployment rate in the blind community."

Paterson asked Gillibrand what she thought.

"She said, 'Governor, you can laugh along, but you have a job, and some of these people will never have a job,'" Paterson recalled in an interview. "She completely got it."

Paterson said Gillibrand's comment wasn't the reason he later appointed her to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Senate, but it helped cement his belief that she sympathizes with the voiceless.

Five-and-a-half years later, Paterson is sure he made the right choice in making the appointment. Gillibrand, he said, demonstrates "an emphasis of fighting for people who don't have a voice, and that's how I was my whole career."

Gillibrand predicts passage of military sexual assault amendment Sun, 02 Mar 2014 11:00:00 -0500

Kirsten Gillibrand Predicts Military Sexual Assault Bill Will Pass Senate Tue, 12 Nov 2013 11:00:00 -0500 While some news reports have cast doubt on the ability of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to get the 60 Senate votes needed to pass her proposal to remove military sexual assault cases from the chain of command, she says she is confident the measure will go through.

"Oh no, we will have the votes," Gillibrand told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "We are going to get to 60 votes. And we are very close already -- we just need a few more votes, and I think we'll get them over the next week."

Gillibrand's bill would allow victims of sexual assault within the military to report their cases to a special independent prosecutor instead of their own commanders. She believes, based on her extensive conversations with assault survivors, that the change would encourage more victims to report this crime and result in more cases being successfully prosecuted. The Pentagon strongly opposes the idea of removing these cases from the chain of command and argues that it would undermine "good order and discipline" in the military.

There are currently 47 senators on record supporting Gillibrand's bill and about 30 who have not publicly decided either way. She has the full-throated support of some unexpected Republicans, including tea party Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Some other key players, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), have not declared their intentions.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has threatened to filibuster Gillibrand's bill. Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have also vocally opposed it.

Still No Fix For Military Sexual Assault Wed, 20 Nov 2013 22:00:00 -0500

Momentum building to #passMJIA and ensure sexual assault survivors have a fair shot at justice Wed, 20 Nov 2013 11:26:28 -0500 I'm proud that bipartisan support for the Military Justice Improvement Act, my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to create an unbiased military justice system to ensure survivors of sexual assault in the military get a fair shot at justice, continues to grow.

Evolve system for fighting sex crime in military Wed, 20 Nov 2013 11:22:24 -0500 We are blessed with the most disciplined, honorable, and effective military force the world has ever known, and improving the system to report and prosecute sexual assault within the Armed Forces will help us maintain that distinction for years to come.

While there are many areas of disagreement between us, as conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, we all believe in our solemn obligation to protect those who volunteer to protect us. No member of our Armed Forces should expect to be faced with sexual assault, and if they are, their complaints deserve to be heard through a fair and just process.

For many years, our military leadership has worked hard to improve the system, but, tragically, serious problems remain. Now that the Senate Armed Services Committee has been presented with overwhelming evidence showing the persistent need for reform, we believe Congress must act.

According to the Defense Department, 3,374 cases of unwanted sexual contact were reported last year, resulting in just 302 trials and 238 convictions. Moreover, the Defense Department estimates there were nearly 23,000 additional cases of unwanted sexual contact that went unreported. That means, in total, there were 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact — a 37% increase over the previous year.

Such a substantial increase requires our immediate attention. That is especially true considering that many of these are very serious allegations, not mere complaints about inappropriate jokes or disagreeable verbal comments. More than half of the 2012 reported cases — 61% — cited in the DOD's report involved serious assaults, such as rape, aggravated sexual assault, or non-consensual sodomy.

And the Inspector General for the Department of Defense has discovered disturbing problems with a portion of sexual assault cases that were pursued; more than 10% of the 501 cases examined from 2010 had significant deficiencies, lacking basic elements such as simple witness interviews.

Strikingly, across the branches, a majority of service members — 74 percent of females and 60 percent of males — perceived barriers to reporting these crimes. And, that's only among the soldiers who were willing to report.

The Defense Department's report stated that 66% of victims said they were not comfortable enough to report it, 50% believed nothing would be done if they did, and 47% cited fear of retaliation to explain their silence.

Something must be done.

Gillibrand bill on sexual assaults in military gains new backers Tue, 19 Nov 2013 11:00:00 -0500 Fifty members of the Senate are now publicly backing a proposal by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand to let military prosecutors rather than commanders decide whether to prosecute sexual assaults in the military.

Nevada’s senators announced their support on Tuesday, reducing the number of publicly undecided members of the Senate to about 25. The separate announcements by Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid came as Gillibrand, a Democrat, continued meeting privately with undecided senators.

Heller said he decided there needed to be three standards — that victims “must feel confident’’ they can report a crime, that they are “protected from sexual harassment’’ and victims “should feel confident that justice will be served.”

“That’s what brings me to the table today,” said Heller, who joined Gillibrand at a news conference. “This amendment does do that. What it does is tell the commander in the field, ‘You can go back to doing your job and get the troops ready.’ ”

Gillibrand plans to offer her proposal as an amendment to a defense authorization measure the Senate is debating this week.

Gillibrand: Justice for sexual assault victims near on Capitol Hill Thu, 07 Nov 2013 11:00:00 -0500 Our long bipartisan fight to create an independent military justice system that will give survivors of sexual violence a fair shot at justice will soon come to a head on the Senate floor.

Our men and women in uniform put everything on the line to defend our country. But too often, they find themselves in the fight of their lives not on some far-away battlefield — but right here on our own soil, as victims of horrific acts of sexual violence.

In fact, the Defense Department estimates there were 26,000 cases of rape, sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact in 2012 — yet there were only 302 prosecutions.

Sexual assault in the military is not new. It has been allowed to fester in the shadows because, instead of the “zero tolerance” pledge we’ve heard now for two full decades, what we really have is zero accountability.

Under the current system, commanders hold all the cards over whether a case moves forward for prosecution. Nowhere else in America do you have to report a sexual attack to your boss.

Critics say moving these decisions outside the chain of command will diminish good order and discipline. Our allies who have already made these reforms have testified to the opposite.

Breaking the chain: Sen. Gillibrand’s mission to change military policy on sexual assault Tue, 05 Nov 2013 11:00:00 -0500 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is on a mission to change how the military prosecutes sexual assaults. She points to one statistic to explain why: 60 percent of those who reported sexual assaults last year were retaliated against by their superiors.

“The victims tell us over and over again that they don't trust the chain of command,” Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, told “The Fine Print.”

Gillibrand is calling for removing sexual assault cases from the chain of command, so decisions on whether to try such cases would be made by military prosecutors, not commanders.

“Some of our commanders are just not maintaining a command climate that is either preventing these rapes from happening, or at least a climate where a victim can come forward and then certainly not protecting the victims once they do come forward," she said. "And that has to change."

But Gillibrand is waging an uphill battle in her effort to revise military policy. The Pentagon strongly opposes Gillibrand’s proposal, as do some in the Senate.

“What they say is exactly what they said when we were fighting Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal. … You keep hearing, ‘We can't possibly do this because it will undermine good order and discipline,’” Gillibrand said of the Pentagon’s stance. “I think that's just a reaction; I don't think it's the truth.”

A competing proposal – and one that has the backing of the Pentagon – comes from Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who wants to remove the commanders’ ability to overturn jury verdicts, while keeping decision-making within the chain of command.

Senator Gillibrand Gains Backers For Military Sexual Assault Amendment Sun, 17 Nov 2013 11:00:00 -0500 A proposal to let military prosecutors rather than commanders decide whether to prosecute sexual assaults in the armed forces is now backed by a majority in the Senate, said the proposal’s author, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

But Gillibrand, D-N.Y., still doesn’t have the 60 votes she expects will be needed to overcome a filibuster. She wants to submit her proposal as an amendment to a defense authorization measure that should come to the Senate floor for a vote within 10 days. With 25-30 senators still undecided on her legislation, Gillibrand is scrambling to make the case in private meetings with as many senators as she can.

“Most senators are extremely grateful for the time,” she said Thursday after meetings with two undecided Republicans. “This is a serious vote for them so they want to consider it and be thoughtful in that approach.”

To get 60 votes, Gillibrand said she may narrow her proposal to cover only sexual offenses. Right now, it covers all criminal offenses carrying a potential jail sentence of at least a year.

“I prefer our amendment the way it’s written today,” she said. “I think it’s cleaner to have a bright line for all serious crimes because ... every victim and defendant deserves a blind justice system, one that is not biased in any way. And they deserve to have trained military prosecutors review their cases. But if we can get to 60 with the more focused approach, I’d be willing to take that as a first step toward larger reform down the line.”

Military prosecutors now offer recommendations to commanders, who decide whether to prosecute.

Expansion of Family and Medical Leave Act proposed Mon, 30 Sep 2013 21:33:34 -0500

Twenty years after Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law continues to evolve.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wants to be part of that evolution. She said Friday that she would help lead the effort to get Congress to pass a paid-leave component as part of her "American Opportunity Agenda."

Gillibrand said the proposal is designed for a changing American workforce in which women are the primary breadwinner in 40 percent of families with children younger than 18.

"Rebuilding America's middle class relies on keeping every woman who wants to be in the workplace in the workforce and earning a paycheck," Gillibrand said during a speech at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.

More often than not, women are the ones who leave the workforce to care for a family member, she said.

The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers with at least 50 workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees who are seriously ill, taking care of a family member with a serious health condition, caring for an infant under a year old or adopting a child.

An estimated 100 million people have used the act to take unpaid leave, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand plays Chutes and Ladders for early education Thu, 19 Sep 2013 10:41:35 -0500 The most memorable scene of the picture perfect photo op on the Capitol lawn on Wednesday was not the 40-by-40 foot game of Chutes and Ladders with an early childhood education theme spread out on the ground. It wasn’t even Sen. Tom Harkin valiantly torquing his body, trying – and failing — to make a sparkly pink hula hoop stay up around his waist.

No, instead it was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand kicking off her shoes, sitting down on a corner of the life-size game with a group of squirming three-year-olds, pulling one onto her lap, and not only leading a lively discussion of favorite colors, books, foods and numbers, but expertly mediating what could have been an ugly tussle between Mercedes and Michayla over a little red ladder they both wanted to play with.

The Chutes and Ladders game was set up to call attention to the benefits of high-quality early childhood education and to try to return attention to President Obama’s $75 billion universal preschool initiative, which has been languishing as fractious lawmakers squabble over Syria, the debt ceiling or take another vote to overturn the health care law about to go into effect.

Lawmakers and business leaders showed up throughout the morning to take the microphone and announce their commitment to early learning for all and take a turn playing the game, set up by MomsRising, a national advocacy group, and the National Women’s Law Center.

Ladder: “Children who have high quality early learning are more likely to graduate from high school and gain stable employment and less likely to be arrested.”

Move ahead.

Chute: “Pay for child care workers is barely above the federal poverty threshold.”

Fall behind.

So why this scene with Gillibrand?

Because Gillibrand, D-New York, in her stocking feet, and her ease and competence with both children and public policy, shows just how much Congress has changed since it last considered a major preschool and child care bill in the early 1970s.

Sen. Gillibrand pushes voting rights in boro Sat, 17 Aug 2013 11:00:00 -0500 With the 50th anniversary of a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights era weeks away, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) made a stop in Queens last week to urge her colleagues in Congress to restore a key element of the movement’s legislation that was nullified by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year.

“This is not some esoteric decision from some faraway place,” the junior senator said at Borough Hall Aug. 9. “It has implications right here in Queens.”

In June, the court essentially gutted Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required certain jurisdictions to receive federal pre-clearance for changes that could possibly disenfranchise voters, such as redistricting and moving polling places.

While noting that pre-clearance was still relevant, the court ruled that Section 4 of the act, which contains the formula used to identify which jurisdictions are covered by Section 5, was out-of-date and unconstitutional. That put the impetus on Washington, D.C., lawmakers to come up with a new formula.

Gillibrand said a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives was expected to come out with a new proposal within the next few weeks and contended it is imperative Washington pass legislation in this session.

Gillibrand: New federal laws are needed to stop 'Iron Pipeline' of illegal guns Wed, 21 Aug 2013 15:23:06 -0500 On April 17, the United States Senate turned its back on the families of Aurora, Newtown and the more than 30 people who die at the hands of gun violence every day when common-sense gun safety laws were filibustered by a minority of senators.

It was one of the most deeply disappointing days of my short time in the Senate. Families from coast to coast deserved better from this Congress.
Monday’s announcement by Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly that a record haul of over 250 weapons were taken off the streets — many of them straw-purchased and coming from states along the so called “Iron Pipeline” — serves as a reminder that while Congress fails to act on a federal statute making gun trafficking a crime, criminal networks continue to brazenly act like it’s business as usual.

According to Bloomberg, 90% of the firearms used in gun crimes in New York City came from out of state in 2011, compared with 85% in 2009, and at least 90% of these guns are bought through the black market run by traffickers.

What is shocking to me as a mother and a lawmaker is that while business along the Iron Pipeline of trafficked guns continues to thrive, effectively none of the federal laws we have on the books are directly focused on preventing straw purchasing or gun trafficking.

Gillibrand Calls to Remove Military Sexual Assault Cases From Chain of Command Tue, 30 Jul 2013 11:00:00 -0500 JUDY WOODRUFF: The numbers are grim: A female soldier is more likely to be raped by a fellow officer than she is to die in combat. It's one of many statistics that have fixed new attention on the problem of sexual assault in the armed forces.

Pentagon findings last May estimated 26,000 troops were sexually assaulted last year, but only 3,400 attacks were reported.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y.: So, today we're standing in a united front to take on these issues with new legislation that will fundamentally remove the decision-making from the chain of command and give that discretion to an experienced military prosecutor, where it belongs.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Gillibrand points to victims who complain that too often commanders ignore their allegations or their careers suffer. But her proposal was defeated by the Senate Armed Services Committee in June in favor of an alternative by committee Chair Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan.

It requires automatic review of any commander's decision not to prosecute a sexual assault case. Last week, Levin released two letters from senior military officials supporting his argument that prosecution should remain within the chain of command.

Gillibrand: Military Commanders Are 'Failing' On Sexual Assault Tue, 30 Jul 2013 11:00:00 -0500 Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is leading the effort in the Senate to move the authority to prosecute military sexual assault cases outside the chain of command, said Tuesday that commanders are “failing,” and she expressed hope that President Obama will support her legislation.

“The facts show they can’t do it, and this is exactly where they’re failing,” Gillibrand said onPostTV’s new show, “On Background.” “If there is 62 percent retaliation today of victims who are coming forward, they are failing in their mandate to provide good order and discipline and to set a command climate where a victim can come forward.”

Gillibrand added: “The commanders today who have said zero tolerance for sexual assault for 25 years are unable to keep retaliation from happening, unable to make a command climate sufficient that a victim will come forward. That needs to change.”
Plan of Attack: Sexual Assault in the Military Read more: Sexual Assault in the Military Tue, 23 Jul 2013 11:00:00 -0500 Picture this: You are raped by a colleague, then your boss gets to decide if the case moves forward — assuming you report the crime and risk your career. That's how it works in the military, and it's a system that a fiery team of women in Congress has vowed to change.

An estimated 26,000 people were sexually assaulted in the service last year, up from about 19,300 in 2010, according to a Pentagon survey. Yet only 3,374 cases were reported last year — and fewer than 10 percent of those went to trial.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says the system is in desperate need of a fix. "Victims feel they can't get justice," she says. "They fear retaliation." This spring, she and 27 bipartisan senators and representatives proposed a bill that would reform the military legal system by appointing trained prosecutors — not officers in the victim's chain of command — to decide whether serious crimes go to trial.

Military brass objected, claiming that the current system promotes "order and discipline." At press time, the future of Gillibrand's plan was in doubt, but she vowed to continue battling for justice in the military ranks.

Voices of the Victims of Sexual Assault In The Military Must Be Heard Wed, 17 Jul 2013 11:00:00 -0500 For the victims of sexual assault in the military, and all those who want to finally see real transformational change made within the broken military justice system, it was extremely disappointing when The Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), our bipartisan legislation to achieve this goal, was removed from the annual Defense Bill last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Our legislation creating an independent and objective military justice system is not only common sense, it is what all the victims have told us is required to end this crisis.

According to the Defense Department, in 2012, there were 26,000 unwanted sexual contacts, assaults and rapes throughout the U.S. military, but of those, only 3,374 were reported. This troubling low rate of reporting of sexual assaults is due to the lack of confidence that the victims have in the military justice system. The victims have told us over and over again they have no hope for any chance of justice when their commanding officer, essentially their boss, has the sole decison-making power over whether their case moves forward for prosecution. In fact, they have very good reason to believe it is they, not the perpetrator of the sexual assault, who will be punished through a system of retaliation that has often ended with the victim having to leave the military with a dishonorable discharge. The reality is the perpetrator of a sexual assault is often the victim's superior officer, and when any single victim of sexual assault is forced to salute his or her attacker, clearly our system is broken.

Even the current military leadership admits "the system has failed" and victims don't come forward because, "They don't trust the chain of command." Yet these same military leaders claim this one decision-making point must remain within the chain of command in order to maintain good order and discipline. As I said in a Senate hearing I chaired, with an estimated 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact last year, how can they say they have "good order and discipline" now?

The military has pledged "zero tolerance" for sexual assaults spanning over two decades and they have failed to solve the problem on their own. And while the sexual assault provisions that were passed out of committee last month are a step forward, it was not the leap forward required to sufficiently address this epidemic.