A plan being championed by U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek deserves the support of residents of the 1st Congressional District. The plan addresses the epidemic of sexual assaults in the military and how victims of those assaults can seek justice. We feel it is a plan that needs to become reality.
Benishek announced details of the plan last week. Currently, members of the military who are victims of sexual assault are required to report the incident to their commanding officer. Benishek equates this with a parallel from civilian life - suppose the victim of a sexual assault was required to report the incident to their boss, not a law enforcement officer or prosecutor. "Currently, victims of sexual assault in the military report an incident to their commanding officer. This poses a difficult challenge for many victims, as it can be extremely hard to share such intensely personal and emotionally upsetting details with a direct superior the victim has to work with each day," Benishek said in a recent column outlining his position.
Under Benishek's plan, a member of the military who had been sexually assaulted would be able to report the incident to "an experienced military attorney outside of the victim's normal chain of command." In other words, they would be reporting the attack to someone from the judicial arm of the military,
This makes perfect sense and is sensitive to the needs of sexual assault victims.
Recent statistics show the need for a change. The Department of Defense reported there were an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults last year in the ranks of the military. Of those, only 3,400 were reported. Perhaps the plan Benishek backs can help change that.
Although Benishek is a Republican, he is working with Democrats in the House to make this common sense change in the way the military handles sexual assaults a reality.
Let's hope Congress as a whole works together to make this possible. It is the right thing to do.