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Sexual assault in the military a topic of presidential campaign

The issue of sexual assault in the military recently became a talking point in the presidential campaign. One of the candidates theorized about its underlying cause.

What our military law firm finds most notable about the statement is that it implicitly acknowledges that sexual misconduct is, in fact, a topic of concern in the armed forces. Regardless of partisanship, the publicity warrants a second look at some of the data.

According to data prepared by Protect Our Defenders, a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, over 20,000 service members claim they were assaulted in 2014. Around 90 percent of those alleged assaults occurred in a military setting. A higher-ranking service member was typically the offender.

Even more disturbing about that data is the way the military treated those victims of sexual assault. Criminal offenses in the military often are handled through the chain of command. A member might report an incident to his or her commanding officer, for example. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds of female victims who came forward to report the incident suffered retaliation from their superiors and/or commanders.

Not surprisingly, many service members choose not to report sexual assault. When surveyed, several reasons were offered. Some believed that reporting would result in retaliation or hurt their careers; others believed that the process would not produce results or would be unfair.

Although the procedures of the Uniform Code of Military Justice must be observed, a service member who was a victim of sexual assault often has the opportunity to retain a private lawyer. Given the above data, the choice for a private attorney that focuses on military law seems clear.

Source: The New York Times, “Donald Trump’s Remarks Show He’s Mistaken on Sexual Assault in Military,”Jennifer Steinhauer and Matthew Rosenberg, Sept. 8, 2016

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