Lawmakers Push For Reform To Pentagon's Sexual Assault Policies | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Lawmakers Push For Reform To Pentagon's Sexual Assault Policies

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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing legislation to change how the Pentagon handles sexual assaults. They think the bill could stem the estimated 26,000 cases last year.

After reporting her sexual assault, former Marine Ariana Klay remembers feeling isolated within her unit. She accuses her commanders of retaliating against her for reporting the crime.

"It is impossible to expect justice in a legal system run primarily by commanders with no legitimate legal training who have a vested interest in the outcomes of their proceedings," Klay says.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been rallying support to overhaul the military chain of command. Her bill is cosigned by 45 senators, but now opponents say she'll need 60 supporters to pass it. Gillibrand says serious crimes like sexual assaults should be handled by trained prosecutors.

"It has been allowed to fester in the military for far too long," Gillibrand says.

But Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) says Gillibrand's legislation is too broad because it removes from the chain of command most crimes punishable by a year or more of imprisonment.

"It's not focused on sexual assaults," Kaine says.

Kaine supports an alternative that ends the practice of allowing a commander to overturn a jury conviction.

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