Huge Step Forward For Military Justice, Finally

We are finally seeing some progress with legislation to address failures in handling sex crimes and murder in the military. In large part, the mishandling of Vanessa Guillen’s murder and social media explosion on the case exposed problems and made this possible.

Picture of Painting of Vanessa Guillen at Rally in Raleigh in July 2020

NC NOW has been concerned with sexual assault, sexual harassment and domestic violence in the military for decades. We are excited to share this update with you – there is some progress in federal law for these victims. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved a Military Justice Reform Bill which includes a sweeping legislative package to reform the way the military prosecutes serious crimes. Legislation like this has been proposed for years, but never gotten far until now. As part of this, “The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act” will move the prosecution of sexual assault and serious crimes from the chain of command to trained, independent military prosecutors. This is exactly what the experts on NC NOW’s military #metoo panels have said we need.

The case of Vanessa Guillen, and the thousands of other soldiers who reacted to it online are finally forcing change in the military. The Military failed soldier Vanessa Guillen and others. Read more about the murder and slow search for Ms. Guillen’s body in Ms. Magazine.

An email from Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand had this message. “This is also a reminder that the toughest fights are always worth taking on, even when they seem impossible. When [Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand] introduced the Military Justice Improvement Act in 2013, she had 39 Senate co-sponsors. Today, the bill has 66—a filibuster-proof majority.”

According to “Senate Panel Greenlights Military Justice Reform Bill After Years-Long Push“, 7/22/21, NPR, “Behind closed doors, the panel incorporated Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s measure as part of the annual defense bill, also known as the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA.”

Since the murder of Vanessa Guillen, NC NOW has written articles on Vanessa Guillen, Erin Scanlon and other victims in the military. NC NOW has done 3 panels on these topics, highlighting input of experts who work with victims and some victims themselves, and is planning to do more. These are exactly the changes we need to make justice against sex crimes in the military more likely.

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