Editor's Note: On Thursday, April 25, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill published an op-ed on PolicyMic calling for an end to sexual assault in the military. Senator McCaskill agreed to write short follow-up responses to the most Mic'd commenters in the discussion on her article. Read her responses below.
1. Sam Meier – 16 Mics
Thanks for taking the time to respond. Congress plays a critical role in shaping laws that protect women from sexual assaults, both in the civilian and military justice systems. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation that would strip military commanders of their authority to overturn convictions and require written justification for any modification of a sentence. Currently, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a commander has the authority to overturn the court-martial conviction of a servicemember or modify a sentence for any reason, or for no reason at all. That’s what happened in the case I referenced in my original post about Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, who was convicted in November of sexual assault.
This case is not the first of its kind, but I’m working to make sure it’s one of the last. I’ll continue to demand accountability from our military leaders on this issue and ensure Congress is doing everything it can to rid our honorable military of these perpetrators.
2. Tom McKay – 13 Mics
Thanks for your thoughtful question. In terms of legislation to confront sexual assault, you rightly point out the importance of the resources included in the Violence Against Women Act, which I cosponsored and fought to renew last year. I was a prosecutor when the landmark bill first passed, and I know firsthand the positive impact this legislation has, both on preventing future assaults, and aiding survivors in their recovery and bringing perpetrators to justice. A clear message needs to be sent to sexual predators, whether they’re in military or civilian courts—if they commit rape or sexual assault, they will go to prison.
It’s crucial that members of Congress work together to support our local communities who rely on programs established under the Violence Against Women Act. And it’s inexcusable when something as nonpartisan and successful as the Violence Against Women Act gets mired in political gridlock, as happened in the U.S. House last year. When it comes to protecting women, politics shouldn’t be a factor.