Military Justice

To the Editor:

In a July 7th report on the PBS Newshour the following statistics for sexual assault in the military were given. “Approximately 20,000 U.S. military members are sexually assaulted annually. But only 7,816 reported those cases, and only in 350 cases were perpetrators charged with a crime.” The report added that 64 percent of those who reported assaults faced retaliation.

Clearly, the system is not working when only five percent of those accused of assault face charges and 64 percent of the victims face retaliation. One major problem is the victim has to report the assault to their commanding officer who, in most cases, knows and works with the accused. Another problem is officers have to get promotions every few years or are forced to leave the military. Anything bad that gets the attention of those above them can cost them their careers. Thus, they have an incentive to bury bad news like sexual assaults under their command as do those above them. In short, the victims command chain has a conflict in interest in these cases.

In civilian courts we do not allow judges or attorneys with conflicts of interests with the anyone involved to try cases. We need to end this practice for sexual assault victims in the military as well.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been trying for a decade to get sexual assault cases out of the chain of command. She has bipartisan support for her bill including our two senators, but the male co-chairmen on her committee have blocked it from even coming to a vote. The time has come for Senators Jack Reed and James Inhofe to allow a vote on this issue.

Walter Hamilton

Portsmouth, N.H.


Reminds us of a line we first heard in uniform: “Military justice is to justice as military music is to music.”

More than 50 years later that’s still true. It’s a disgrace.

Now, about those Army bases named after traitors…[Muffled noises are heard as the Editor is dragged from the newsroom with a hood over his head.]


Leave a Comment