Tonawanda News


August 14, 2013

DUVALL: Military sex assault reporting must change

Tonawanda News — When the numbers were first made public months ago I had the rare reaction of assuming there had to be something factually incorrect in the story I was reading: The military had estimated as many as 33,000 sexual assaults had taken place in the military.

Not over a decade. In a single year. 

How could that be right, I asked myself?

Making matters worse, only about 300 had been successfully prosecuted. Fewer than 1 in 1,000 instances of rape or sexual assault were prosecuted. It’s a stunning statistic, the kind of thing that makes you ask yourself what country it is we’re living in. This is the United States of America, not the Taliban’s Afghanistan or some remote tribal village in Pakistan where fundamentalists treat women worse than a heard of goats.

The resulting political debate has the military’s uniformed and civilian hierarchy re-evaluating the entire system and politicians, particularly two Democratic senators on the armed services committee proposing reforms.

There are reforms all involved agree should be undertake. Victims should be granted their own legal counsel to represent their interests. The military should empower those counselors to act on victims’ behalf and offer them meaningful legal tools to press for a full investigation and prosecution.

That’s a good start.

There remains a central debate, though, about how victims should report incidents of sexual assault: Should unit commanders remain in control of investigating incidents or should we break with longstanding military tradition and handle these allegations through an outside set of prosecutors who weight the evidence? There’s compelling arguments to both approaches and those two senators, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, both make convincing arguments. 

Gillibrand makes a simple point: The status quo of reporting sexual assaults in the military is broken beyond repair and needs fundamental reform. The practice of requiring victims — men or women — to report the incident to a direct commander by its very nature makes it unlikely a victim is willing to come forward. Handling such a serious and often difficult to prove allegation in-house compromises the entire process, subjecting it to interpersonal judgments rather than an objective reading of the facts.

Text Only
  • wallace, amy.jpg WALLACE: Too much information? Is there such a thing as TMI or too much information anymore? Some might say yes.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: On reading and the lack thereof It was surprising to me a few weeks ago when a friend asked a group of us to estimate how many books we have each read over the last five years. The English teacher said 200 and he far and away led the pack. I was probably the median and my number was 20-25.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • confer, bob.jpg CONFER: A Con-Con would be a con game

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: Conflict in Ukraine now a concern of global proportions It seems increasingly clear Ukrainian separatists, with the help from the Russian military, are responsible for the tragedy. They, of course, have denied it. They've also denied access to the crash site to international investigators seeking to recover the dead and determine what happened. That's not something the innocent party does.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • ADAMCZYK: Personal development, rendered in steel Accepting the premise that everyone needs to fill the same amount of time every day (24 hours, every day), some people use theirs rebuilding things, tangible things, and thus fulfill a few intangible goals.

    July 18, 2014

  • WALLACE: Festival season is underway Summer is the season of fairs and festivals. From Canal Fest in the Tonawandas to the Allentown Art Festival and Italian Heritage Festival in Buffalo to the Erie County Fair in Hamburg, the Western New York area has no shortage of things to do with the family over the summer.

    July 17, 2014

  • duvall, eric.jpg DUVALL: King George's abdication leaves many questions I've covered Niagara County politics for 10 years and it's been a fascinating -- and often infuriating -- experience. With the news the man known with equal parts respect and cynicism as "King George" is walking away it's about to get more interesting.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Canal Fest, here we come This column should be titled "Roads and Streets." First of all, Meadow Drive is finally open. Although it took very long to be completed, it's beautiful. Riding by the other day brought into focus how many people will use this to cut across town. One less thing for residents to complain about.

    July 12, 2014

  • ADAMCZYK: Homesick for someplace I've never been You stumble over things that make you wonder. I do, at least, and the latest is one of those advertising artifacts from yesteryear that encourage me to ponder what's changed and what never will.

    July 11, 2014

  • WALLACE: Playing politics as usual The immigration crisis is just the most recent example of how dysfunctional Washington, D.C. is right now.

    July 10, 2014