WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – This week, the military changed how it investigates allegations of sexual assault, taking that responsibility away from the chain of command, and into the hands of independent investigators.
The new policy comes as sexual assault cases across most of the military continue to rise.
The law is the result of years of work by Congress, which the Pentagon long resisted.
Starting this week, sexual assault allegations will now be investigated by independent lawyers instead of military commanders.
Supporters of the new law say it will make sexual assault allegations in the military be taken more seriously and insulate servicemembers from retaliation by superior officers by removing investigations from the chain of command.
However, some critics argue while the change is a good thing, it won’t affect the underlying culture within the military that allows sexual assaults to happen.
Last year, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy all saw sexual assault reports increase, while the Army saw reports go down by 9%.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called the new law the most important reform to the Military Justice Code since 1950.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who fought for the reform, said the new law will help rebuild trust within the military justice system saying, “No one change will end the scourge of sexual violence within the services, but [this] step is a powerful reform toward that goal.”
The Pentagon says it also plans to hire around 2400 new personnel to focus on sexual assault prevention at military bases around the world.
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