On last night’s episode of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, the host took on sexual assault in the military, a serious problem that the Pentagon has only reluctantly acknowledged. Later this week, the Senate will vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, or, as Bee puts it, “when America takes all the money and…gives it to the military,” which then does not use much of it to prosecute sexual offenders.
According to a Department of Defense survey from 2014, only 6,131 reports were filed out of 20,300 cases of sexual assault. The enormous gap in assaults and filed reports stems from the difficult process members of the military must go through to report having been assaulted. Victims must first tell their units’ commanders, who are also often the commanders of the alleged perpetrators. Further complicating the matter is that for these commanders to prove an assault has occurred, they must also admit a failure of their own leadership. As Bee points out, “commanders can’t indict a rapist without indicting themselves.” That might explain why servicemen and servicewomen who do report an assault are 12 times more likely to suffer some form of retaliation than to see their offender convicted of sexual offense.
Enter New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, who has spent the last three years trying to get the Military Justice Improvement Act passed in Congress. The measure would take the responsibility of determining the validity of a reported assault out of commanders’ hands and move the matter to the jurisdiction of military prosecutors. In an unexpected legislative plot twist—what Bee calls “the rare, majestic bipartisan bill”—two of its supporters are former GOP presidential hopefuls: Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.
So why has the bill stalled? Not just because Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested that military commanders would be replaced with lawyers, but because President Barack Obama has not endorsed it.
“If the president came out and supported this bill, it would be done,” Gillibrand told Bee. “It would be over. He promised, I think now close to three years ago, that he was going to give the military one year to fix things. Well, I can show him this year’s report…They have not fixed things.”
Bee asks the question we’re all left to ponder: “I know presidents don’t like to piss off generals, but what happened to ‘No Fucks Obama?'”