Cooper Cosponsors Bill to Address Military Sexual Assaults
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper announced today that he is cosponsoring legislation that would address an alarming increase in military sexual assaults by moving the response to such crimes outside the chain of command.
A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Cooper is cosponsoring the bipartisan Military Justice Improvement Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Mich. The bill is a response to higher rates of sexual assault in the armed services and is the House version of legislation championed by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
Despite the military’s efforts to rectify the issue, high rates of sexual assault persist. According to The New York Times, four out of five military sexual assaults go unreported. And other reports say perpetrators often are in the victims’ immediate chain of command.
“Threats to our troops should only come from the enemy,” Cooper said. “Not our fellow soldiers.”
The Military Justice Improvement Act would change the law to transfer the prosecution of crimes such as rape and sexual assault from commanders to independent military prosecutors.
Gillibrand has said the military is the only workplace in America where a boss decides whether or not a sexual assault occurred. Cooper agrees and believes his role as a congressman includes keeping the military strong.
“We’ve waited too long for the U.S. military to solve its own sexual assault problems,” Cooper said. “It needs civilian help.”