Gillibrand Fact Sheet on Sexual Assaults in the Military


U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office released the following facts regarding Military Sexual Assault on Thurs, July 25th.

Any of the following can be attributed to Senator Gillibrand’s office.

Today we heard more of the same in opposition to the bipartisan coalition sponsoring the Military Justice Improvement Act. This carefully crafted legislation supported by 44 Senators from both sides of the aisle seeks to reverse the systemic fear that numerous victims of military sexual assault have told us they have in deciding whether to report the crimes committed against them due to the clear bias and inherent conflicts of interest posed by the military chain of command's current sole decision-making power. According to the 2012 SAPRO Report, 25% of women and 27% of men who received unwanted sexual contact indicated the offender was someone in their military chain of command.  

According to DOD, 50% of female victims stated they did not report the crime because they believed that nothing would be done with their report. Even the current top military leadership admits the current system "has failed" and victims do not come forward because "they don't trust the chain of command." The bill is supported by the International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and all the leading victim’s advocates groups, including but not limited to, Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), Protect Our Defenders (POD), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), the National Women’s Law Center, Vietnam Veterans of America, The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV), plus former Generals, former JAG officers and survivors of sexual assault across the country. 

This legislation was drafted in direct response to the testimony heard in the Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel from victims of sexual assault in the military, and the testimony of the military leadership. Unfortunately, in opposition to the victims, the full SASC committee chose to strike the Military Justice Improvement Act during the mark-up of the NDDA, protecting the current broken system. 

The problem of sexual assault in the military is not new, neither are the pledges of “zero tolerance” from the commanders and senior members of the committee, which date all the way back to then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in 1992. Below is a fact sheet correcting some of the misinformation used by opponents of the Military Justice Improvement Act.


Myth: Moving the decision over whether prosecutions move forward from the chain of command to independent military prosecutors will increase retaliation against victims. If an independent prosecutor, and not the commander, moves the case forward others will take it less seriously and retaliation will increase.

Fact: There is absolutely zero statistical or anecdotal evidence that would lend any credibility to this theory. Contrary to that theory, in the current DoD SAPRO survey, of those who responded they have been victims of USC, 62% say they have already been retaliated against which demonstrates the current chain of command structure some are seeking to protect is not working to protect victims. The idea that a commander putting forth the court martial “protects victims from retaliation” is directly rebutted by victims own reports, and ignores anecdotal evidence that commanders are also sometimes the assailant, or have conflicts of interest when a superior officer victimizes a lower ranking servicemember. Additionally, according to a 7 month investigation by the San Antonio Express, a survey of 1,200 service members who sought help since 2003 at the Military Rape Crisis Center found that 90% of victims who reported sexual assault where involuntarily discharged and diagnosed with mental disorders (an extreme form of retaliation).


Myth: We will have more prosecutions from within the chain of command because commanders move forward cases that civilian lawyers would not. Under the Gillibrand bill, if the lawyer doesn’t want to prosecute a case, it ends. Under the Levin bill, the commander can move forward even if the prosecutor doesn’t want to.

Fact: To claim keeping prosecutions inside the chain of command will increase prosecutions is not supported by the statistics. Of the DoD’s 26,000 estimated cases, only 2,558 victims sought justice by filing an unrestricted report and only an abysmal 302 proceeded to trial. A chain of command orientated system that produces only 302 prosecutions of 2,558 actionable reports is simply not holding enough alleged assailants accountable under any metric. The Military Justice Improvement Act will increase victims perception that they can receive an unbiased chance at justice, increasing unrestricted reporting and the number of successful prosecutions, which will put more sexual predators behind bars unable to victimize men and women in uniform again and again.

While the claim that under the Levin bill a commander can proceed against the lawyers recommendation is true, it omits the fact that rarely does a commander currently disagree with his JAG attorney. Additionally, it omits that in the current structure that the NDAA protects, the JAG making the recommendation to the commander is in the commander’s direct chain of command. Under the Military Justice Improvement Act, the JAG making the decision to proceed to trial would be independent of the commander and any possible bias from within the chain of command, such as the current ability for a commander to choose a judge and jury pool.

Lastly, the argument that we should go all the way in the other direction by reducing the civil liberties of the accused does not adhere to the fundamental values of a fair and independent American justice system.


Myth: Critics say this lets the commanders off the hook. How can you hold them accountable when you reduce their power?

Fact: This is a false choice and just plain inaccurate. There is nothing about this proposal that lets commanders off the hook. Commanders will still be held accountable for setting the command climate whether or not they make this one legal decision.  They are still fully responsible for and in control of their troops.  In fact, this proposal leaves many crimes within the chain of command, including 37 serious crimes that are unique to the military, such as going AWOL or insubordination, in addition to all misdemeanor type crimes under Article 15. That’s why a law professor and former Air Force officer wrote in the New York Times, “Everything about the proposal takes military needs into account, except for the fact that military leaders don’t like change.”


Myth: Victims can already report the crimes committed against them outside of the chain of command. 

Fact: Of course they can, but under the current system, regardless of whom you report the crime to initially, it ultimately ends up on the desk of the commander who becomes the sole decision maker over whether a case moves forward. The commander holds all the cards regardless of where the crime is reported and it is this bias in the system that keeps victims from coming forward and reporting the crime anywhere because they do not believe they can receive justice. 


Myth: This proposal will lead to fewer trials since prosecutors are concerned about their win/loss record and will only recommend cases they can win.

Fact: This reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how the military justice system works. JAGs move back and forth between defense and prosecution assignments, so they are less concerned about their prosecution numbers. Prosecutors are detailed to the billet for 2-3 years and take whatever cases are given to them by their department head.  The department head takes the cases that are preferred/referred.  Under our new structure the O-6 JAG would have the disposition authority to decide if a case proceeds to trial based on the strengths/weaknesses of the evidence.  In the military, prosecutors are professionally graded on a whole host of matters - not just wins/losses.  In fact, military prosecutors often receive praise from their superiors for being willing to take tough cases to trial. 

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Air Force Pulls Sexual Assault Brochure


Featured in our film, THE INVISIBLE WAR, Congresswoman Slaughter has been a longtime advocate for survivors of military sexual assault. After calling out the inappropriate content presented in a Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Brochure which states, "It may be advisable to submit than to resist" the Air Force has decided to pull this training pamphlet.

It's a shame that it took a lawmaker's stand and direct request to cease distribution of such materials. It should be clear that victim-blaming tactics cannot solve systemic issues such as the epidemic of military rape.

We applaud Rep. Slaughter for her tireless efforts and commitment to ending sexual assault, she fully realizes that it will take strong legislative action coupled with a fundamental shift in cultural understanding to eradicate this issue. 

"No service member wearing the uniform of the United States military should
ever be told `it may be advisable to submit than to resist' in the case of a
sexual assault," Slaughter said in a statement. "I am cautiously optimistic
about the Pentagon's agreement to review all sexual assault prevention
materials. We have to change the military culture if we want to stop this
epidemic of sexual assault, and this response is a step in the right
direction and a small victory for victims."


View the brochure and Congresswoman Slaughter's inquiry below:






































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Cause for Celebration


Kori_Ariana_Ben_USCENTCOM.jpgThis Independence Day we're celebrating a handful of advocates for change who appeared in our film: Ben Klay, Kori Cioca and Ariana Klay. Here they are with Vice Admiral Harward, the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, following a screening of THE INVISIBLE WAR at USCENTCOM's main headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base.

The group participated in a solution-focused conversation with some of the nation's most senior commanders, discussing leadership and how to improve the culture and overall experience for survivors of sexual assault within the military.

Vice Admiral Harward said, “It was an absolutely amazing session with the panel attended by Kori, Ariana and Ben. They had a captivated audience with over 20 flag officers [four stars down to one star] and thousands of others. The whole team was distinct, sharp and compelling."

Bravo to USCENTCOM for setting the standard by allowing an open engaging discussion with it's most senior leadership live in front of thousands of their subordinate leaders.


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Should Commanders Deal With Sexual Assault?


Proponents of keeping investigations within the chain of command say it ensures accountability.

Opponents say the current system discourages victims from coming forward.

While we believe the latter - as evidenced by only 3,374 cases of the estimated 26,000 sexual assaults ending up reported last year - we're interested to hear your thoughts.

Check out Kira Zalan's article in the U.S. News Weekly's Two Takes below, and let us know what you think.


Want to do more? Call your Senators and let them know what you think too. You can identify them and find their number here:

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Independent Lens Audience Award


THE INVISIBLE WAR is up for this year's Independent Lens Audience Award! Can you help continue to spread the word and VOTE for us by clicking here?

It's been an incredible honor working with Independent Lens to push our film out to cities throughout America. Their support has helped reach and educate new audiences, engage new supporters and raise mass awareness - all in an effort to put an end to the epidemic of sexual assault military.

Can you help us keep the pressure on? Your action, your VOTE and audience awards like this make it crystal clear that we've got an army of advocates - outraged at the military's inaction on this issue.

Help us show the top brass that we're not backing down.

Voting is simple and will just take a minute, here's a quick "how to": 

1. CLICK HERE and go to

2. Scroll down. Underneath the title Spring Films you'll see a list of movie titles.

3. Keep scrolling until you see THE INVISIBLE WAR, it will look like this:


4. CLICK on the STARS. Your vote will be counted!

5. Once you've VOTED you can quickly share it with a friend, CLICK HERE to Tweet

Thank you for your continued support and committed action to raise awareness and help us bring justice to the survivors of military sexual trauma who so deserve it. If we tell everybody, then it's not a secret.


Together, we are #NotInvisible.

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Ben Klay's Statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee


You likely remember Ben Klay from THE INVISIBLE WAR. Seeing the movie for the first time was surreal but I will forever remember the moment that I saw Ben on camera talking about his incredible wife, Ariana, "this really sweet person who was trying really hard, and succeeding." Then, with tears in his eyes recounting a time after her assault when he came home to a suicide note and had to call the police with one hand while restraining Ariana from killing herself with the other.

Like Ariana, Ben also served on active duty in the United States Marines. He was deployed twice to Iraq, served in combat and left the Marines as a captain.

Yesterday, following the disappointing vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee to leave the decision to prosecute military sexual assault within the chain of command, Ben spoke to Don Franzen, the Los Angeles Book Review Legal Affairs Editor, about military sexual assault, judicial independence and tort liability in a statement directed to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The very group of lawmakers that opted to leave the "justice" system in it's current form - broken. 

He includes an assessment of the causes and patterns of the U.S. military's mishandling of sexual offenses and his recommendations for what can be done about it.

Read his statement here:



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SASC Committee Vote 17-9


It's a disgrace.

In the past few weeks, the Pentagons top brass and lawmakers of every suit have called the epidemic of rape within our ranks everything from "cancer" to a "plague." But when given the option to take bold measures to eradicate these heinous crimes, the Senate all but looked the other way.

On Wednesday the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by it's chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), voted 17-9 to keep the current system of prosecuting assault cases in place. You know, the current broken system. Yes, the one that hasn't been working. The same one that swept 26,000 cases of sexual assaults under the rug last year alone.

Below are the 17 men and women who voted to keep the current system in place. Call them. If your Senator is listed below call him/her multiple times. Tell them to stop kowtowing to military brass and to start standing up for survivors of military rape. This is an institutionalized problem and it's going to require institutionalized reform. 

It's crucial that we move the decision to prosecute military sexual assault outside of the chain of command.


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Don't Trust the Pentagon to End Rape


I'm in DC today where the Senate Armed Services Committee is holding the first full committee hearing on sexual assaults in the military in a decade. As I wrote in my Op-Ed in The New York Times, "Don't Trust the Pentagon to End Rape," this hearing comes after months of public revelations of rapes and other violent attacks at U.S. military bases and academies in our country and around the world. Today, chiefs of staff of the military branches will likely admit that there is a serious problem and insist that the solution involves changing military culture.

But the challenge goes far deeper.NYT_OPED.jpg

This is our moment to make change. We've come to a head and after a year of sustained collective action, we've created a perfect storm environment that is ripe for serious change to be made. In my film, "The Invisible War," retired brigadier general, Loree K. Sutton, describes the military as a “target-rich environment” for serial predators. The training and leadership efforts the Pentagon proposes won’t change this environment. It simply isn’t possible to “train” or “lead” serial predators not to rape.        

In order to make lasting change, we need to take the adjudication of military sexual assault out of the chain of command. That is the sole way to alter both policy and cultural change within the military. Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced a bi-partisan bicameral piece of legislation, the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA), that would do just that. As I continue my efforts through film, through our social action campaign #NotInvisible, and through continued trips to Capitol Hill to attend important hearings such as the one taking place today, I hope you'll take a moment to call your Senators. Urge them to take action to end military rape by signing on to co-sponsor the MJIA.

For information on how to contact your Senator, and what to say when you reach them, click here.

I hope you take a minute to read my Op-Ed, "Don't Trust the Pentagon to End Rape," in the NYT, share it with a friend, and leave a comment. If everyone knows then it won't be a secret. You can read it by clicking here.

Thank you for your continued support and action. This has become a true grassroots movement spurring real, measurable change. We couldn't do it without you.



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Big Day on the Hill


Tomorrow the US Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a full committee hearing on the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) and the other pending bills on military sexual assault. 


Senator Gillibrand’s bill, the MJIA, is a chance to do what we know is right: move the decision to prosecute sexual assault outside of the military’s chain of command. Many of you have taken a stand for this kind of reform by signing my petition on If you have yet to do so, you can by clicking here.


We need to send a message TODAY to Congress that there’s a grassroots movement -- that's us -- behind the MJIA. Can you take two minutes to call your Senators before tomorrow's hearing?

It’s easy to do, and if you click here you’ll be given not only the phone numbers but important points to remember when you reach your Senator’s office.
 And please, let us know what you hear! Calls like these are how our bill has grown to 17 Senate cosponsors.

I am traveling to Washington to deliver our petitions – more than 100,000! – to Senators on the Armed Services committee at tomorrow's hearing. I'm incredibly proud of how far we've come but I know in our fight for justice, the biggest milestones still lie ahead.

I’ll be in touch with more updates and a recap on the hearing later this week - join the movement and sign up here to stay informed!

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Citing military sexual assaults, Obama urges Naval Academy graduates to uphold public trust


This morning, President Obama who has been publicly vocal about the epidemic of military sexual assault, addressed the issue in his commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Saying that, "...Those who commit sexual assault are not only committing a crime, they threaten the trust and discipline that make our military strong.  That’s why we have to be determined to stop these crimes, because they’ve got no place in the greatest military on Earth."

To see the video CLICK HERE:

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