Command Authority and Sexual Assault in the Military

Posted on:

In June, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pushed a measure that would have changed military legal processes to allow allegations of sexual assault to bypass the traditional command structure and instead go straight to military prosecutors. Gillibrand and many others believe that this change will increase the likelihood that victims of sexual assault will come forward. One of their concerns is that many victims are afraid to make legal complaints through their chain of command, as other criminal complaints are made.

Opponents of the change argue that this type of policy would undermine traditional command authority. Some argue that commanders would be able to order troops into battle but couldn’t wouldn’t be able to prosecute them for their crimes. Further, they point to a study of several foreign militaries that use approaches similar to that promoted by Sen Gillibrand. The study shows no meaningful difference in reported assaults between the U.S. military and the other nations’.

There is broad consensus that more focus should be placed on making prevention of sexual assault a command priority from the top down. Additionally, some have argued that military prosecutors should receive more training in prosecuting sexual assault cases and/or be augmented by civilian attorneys with more experience in prosecuting these cases which tend to differ greatly from those typically handled by military attorneys.

What do you think?


If you agree with an approach similar to Sen Gillibrand’s:


If you believe that commanders should retain their authority:


Have another idea?

Leave a Comment!