Although Ottawa conducts a study, US lawmakers introduce a bill in response to dire statistics and one particularly heinous event.
Here’s a tale that might be familiar to Canadians: It includes the military’s scourge of sexual harassment, years of inaction, and yet another drive toward change.
This one is currently taking place in the United States.
Recently, when Canada convened yet another external review to discuss legislative changes, there were indications that the US might be moving forward with reforms.
Different initiatives are underway in Washington, prompted by startling assault figures, a dearth of convictions, and new information regarding one troubling case.
One such initiative is a bill that was recently introduced in the United States Senate and is co-sponsored by hundreds of senators, including ideological adversaries who set their political differences aside.
“Sexual harassment in the military is an epidemic,” said Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York who has sponsored bill after bill over the years.
“It has been for an extended period of time.”
What makes her supporters hopeful that they can succeed this time is the number of new colleagues who have signed on to this current bill, which was presented jointly by 42 members of the United States Senate.
Among her supporters is Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
Their bill was presented Thursday, the same day Canada revealed the results of its most recent review; Cruz expected this one would pass.
“And it’s long overdue,” the Texas senator said.
“It is heinous. It is intolerable that sexual harassment is so prevalent in the military today… This is the proper course of action.”
The bill does transfer jurisdiction on whether to prosecute — away from the military chain of command and toward qualified, independent military prosecutors who will determine whether to bring a lawsuit.
7,000 robberies, a smattering of charges.
According to reports, a Pentagon panel is expected to make the same recommendation.
It is said to have arrived at the conclusion quickly, just weeks after the new US Secretary of Defense ordered a three-month analysis.
Lloyd Austin, a retired general who joined the cabinet, made it a priority upon his appointment, convening the panel and referring to sexual abuse and harassment as chronic and corrosive issues.
For years, the military has opposed the move, claiming it will weaken authority. However, the debate is evolving.
Sexual harassment reports have continued to grow, surpassing 7,000 a year in the US military, a pace far above that of Canada, with charges seldom filed.
The fallout from a particularly heinous situation.
A especially heinous case prompted an investigation that culminated in the dismissal and suspension of nearly two dozen military personnel at Fort Hood, Texas.
Vanessa Guillen, a soldier, was assassinated there last year; her body was discovered dismembered and burned by a river.
A study released Friday verified what her family had claimed: that Guillen had reported being sexually assaulted prior to her death.
According to the military paper, Guillen attempted to warn subordinates twice — but neither acted on her allegations.
The soldier accused of murdering her was apprehended — but survived and committed suicide.
According to Friday’s article, there was no proof linking harassment to her death or that the soldier accused of murdering her had ever abused her. However, the report stated that the perpetrator did assault another female employee on the base.
Separately, a separate review discovered that 1,339 individuals at the same base reported witnessing an attack in the previous year, with just a handful of those incidents being reported.
Politicians have expressed outrage at what they have read.
One individual influenced by this event, who was previously opposed to the proposed reform, is Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican who served as a National Guard commander.
She is also a victim of sexual harassment and has become increasingly persuaded that the military’s status quo is unsustainable.
The fact that she and more than a dozen other senators have thrown their support behind Gillibrand in recent months gives supporters hope that the tide has turned.
Comparative studies with Canada.
According to some US politicians and media reports, Canada is one of the countries that already has an investigative system similar to the one that some Americans want to develop.
Cruz brought up the Canadian example during Thursday’s news conference.
Canada, on the other hand, faces constant challenges. In recent years, the Canadian military has registered an average of more than 100 attack incidents a year.
Ottawa has initiated a new analysis, this time by a former Supreme Court justice, six years after another retired justice conducted one.
Marie Deschamps proposed in her most recent analysis the establishment of a new independent monitoring office to manage complaints in Canada.
She stated that until 1998, civilian police handled assault complaints. However, amendments to the National Defence Act required the military to oversee assault cases.
The nation now operates under a hybrid system: According to Deschamps’ 2015 study, the military’s investigative agency, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, refers approximately half of investigations to civilian law enforcement and the other half to military police.
According to one American woman, survivors must have faith in the system.
The tale of a single woman.
Amy Marsh, the spouse of a member of the United States Air Force, said she was raped one night at a social function on a base in California by a senior officer.
According to her, the intruder was someone she and her husband regarded as a mentor. She said that when she requested to press charges, military brass declined.
Nonetheless, the lawsuit she filed was used against her husband: it stated that prohibited drinking occurred that night, and her husband received a letter of reprimand and had his promotion revoked.
Her accused rapist was compelled to retire early and receive a reduced pension. She said she was socially isolated, and her family felt compelled to leave the foundation.
“Instead of having my perpetrator charged, what I encountered following my report was retaliation against my kin,” Marsh said during a news conference outside the United States Capitol.
“There was also the devastation of my husband’s military career, as well as an assault on my integrity, which forced us to move to a different state in order to begin rebuilding our shattered lives.”
If her case had been reviewed by a professional lawyer, she asserted, her abuser may have faced consequences for his behavior.
“I may have had a chance,” she admitted.