The Mayer Law Blog

Sexual Assault Reports Are Up, But What Does It Mean?

Posted January 2nd, 2014 in Courts-Martial, Military Law

There are statistics, then there is how statistics are interpreted.

The latter varies wildly depending on political persuasions.

In practice, such debates in congress is of little use to military lawyers who focus on courts-martial, as we just continue defending allegations one case at a time. However, we are always mindful of potential changes and how they might alter our clients’ rights and defenses. More and more, we lose established ways to present a full, intelligent, and well-prepared defense. Though, military and civilian military defenders continue to look for ways to get the job done. Quite unsettling is the fact that military lawyers will be treading into uncharted territory for the foreseeable future.

Some senators believe that the current changes should be given a chance to work. Others want more changes–none of which favor the accused.

Per the Wall Street Journal:

A sharp increase in the number of sexual assault reports filed by members of the armed services is providing new fuel to the debate about how to overhaul the military justice system.

Some in the military and Congress said the increase shows a growing recognition of the problem has overcome some victims’ reluctance to report these crimes. Others, however, contend the rising numbers could reflect increasing incidents and demonstrate that more should be done to improve how the military handles sexual assaults.

More than 5,000 reports were filed in the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, up from 3,375 in the previous fiscal year, said Joy Crabaugh, a Pentagon spokeswoman. The figures, which the Pentagon said are preliminary, were reported earlier by the Associated Press.

Survey data in recent years have shown that many more service members anonymously report that they have been victims of sexual assault than file formal complaints.

The National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama, included changes designed to encourage more victims to report sexual assault, including limiting commanders’ authority to overturn verdicts and providing more legal assistance to victims. The law didn’t include a provision that would have stripped commanders of the power to oversee the prosecutions.

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