The media and even Congress has recently criticized the military justice system when it comes to military sexual assault situations that has impacted many Veterans lives.  Reported stories include how the senate has proposed that military commanders would no longer have the discretion to overrule a court martial judgment.  The Obama administration has threatened further reforms if the military doesn’t act on its own to progress on military sexual assault.  NPR also discusses the issue that is a part of a new defense bill.  In our practice we seem to be getting quite a number of inquiries about psychological problems that arise secondary to military sexual assault. Military sexual assault seems to have been ongoing problem for quite a number of years. Often these claims are quite difficult to win since there is very little to no documentation about the assault itself.
Many would be surprised that the military justice system is quite different than the civilian criminal justice system that quite clearly seems to favor the defendant and not the victim.  The jurors during the trials are fellow military officers who understandably would be much more sympathetic to the alleged perpetrator.  New statistics indicate that there are 3,553 sexual assault complaints from October 2012 through June, a nearly 50 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.  At issue is the military law article 120 where crimes concerning sexual assault are to be found.  There is a huge disparity between the number of sexual assaults that actually occur and those that are reported.   It is estimated by the Pentagon that as many of 26,000 service persons had experienced sexual assault and only 3,374 actually followed through and filed formal complaints in 2012.  Most disturbing is that military prosecutors were only able to secure 238 convictions.  Based on these facts its quite clear that there are flaws in the military justice system.
In one reported incident an off-military base alleged assault occurred between an Air Force officer pilot and a woman.  This was reported in the Stars and Stripes.  The officer and the woman were the only ones in the house which made her a little uneasy, and following the alleged assault the officer had problems explaining how the sex was consensual.  The alleged victim, Phegley went through the article 32 process as if she were the on trial where the dug up seemingly irrelevant details of her past to make it seem like she was not a victim.  Several members of Congress have openly wondered why there should be this pre-trial interrogation of victims that has no equivalent procedure outside of the military court system.  In the end, the pilot was found not-guilty.  Certainly the statistics indicate that is quite difficult to get a conviction in a sexual assault case.  The situations that I’ve heard range from all different types of circumstances to on-base and off base assaults, commander on inferior officer assaults, homosexual and heterosexual assaults.  Clearly, they are quite common and what can be done to reduce the number of assaults is not entirely clear.