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The Boston Globe


Juliette Kayyem

Conduct unbecoming the military

The military has a sexual assault problem. Endless effort is being spent trying to figure out why: Stress on the troops? Difficulty integrating women into the ranks? Too little supervision? In the long run, these questions matter little. There is only one certain way to stop sexual abuse: Victims must feel that coming forward will be taken seriously within the military justice system, and assailants must feel that they will face consequences. But the military justice system isn’t equipped to handle this problem, and the Pentagon must reform it for the thousands of women who have suffered under its negligence.

The system grants commanding officers the power to be both prosecutor and judge. Such leaders have both the capacity to initiate a case (or not) and dismiss a verdict (or not). This set-up is far too prone to bias and whim, as male leaders often turn a blind eye to the egregious behavior of subordinates, leading to further abuse and fewer women coming forward.

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