For Immediate Release
November 13, 2013
Contact for Speier’s office:
DC – Bill Silverfarb (202) 225-3531 / (202) 957-4340 cell
CA – Katrina Rill (650) 342-0300 / (650) 208-7441 cell
Contact for Meehan’s office:
DC – Maureen Keith (202) 225-2011 / (202) 590-8251 cell
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo/Redwood City) and Congressman Patrick Meehan (R-Springfield) issued the following statement today after introducing The Article 32 Reform Act, bipartisan legislation to reform how the military conducts sexual assault preliminary proceedings by aligning them with civilian preliminary hearings.
“Simply put, Article 32s are rigged in favor of the accused. The scales are so tilted in favor of the accused, the system is upended. It is time to stop treating victims of rape in the military as if they are the criminals,” Speier said. “Article 32s have mutated and now put the victim on trial, not the accused. These proceedings destroy legitimate cases before they get to trial, re-victimize survivors, and serve as a dire warning to those considering coming forward.”
“In Article 32 proceedings, it is standard operating procedure for the defense team to subject the victim to every irrelevant, indecent, and outright degrading question one can imagine. In the Naval Academy case, the victim was asked: “How wide do you open your mouth to perform oral sex?” and “Did you feel like a ‘ho’ the next morning.” These questions would simply never be permitted in a civilian criminal trial let alone in a preliminary hearing.”
Speier continued: “It is time we bring the military justice system in line with our civilian criminal courts and give the same rights to brave men and women who come forward to report a crime as their civilian counterparts. If we are serious about addressing the epidemic of sexual assault we must stop treating the victim as the criminal and continue protecting the sexual predators.”
The bill will bring Article 32 proceedings more in line with civilian courts and limit the scope of the proceedings to the question of probable cause to help prevent abusive and unwarranted questioning of sexual assault victims.
“It takes great courage for a victim to come forward and they should never be made to feel they are on trial," said Meehan, a former federal prosecutor. "Hours and hours of invasive public questioning in a pre-trial proceeding is cruel and unnecessary. This bipartisan legislation ends this practice.”
The legislation, a companion piece to a bill introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, is supported by Protect Our Defenders, a human rights organization that advocates for military sex assault survivors and the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN).
“It is time to abolish the practice of allowing defense attorneys to conduct a mini-trial before they ever get to a court-martial,” said Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, “We need to reign in the Article 32 process and restore it to its appropriate role as a hearing to determine whether there is probable cause to recommend proceeding to General Courts-Martial.”
Speier has shared the stories of military sexual assault victims for more than two years and has introduced numerous bills and amendments to fundamentally reform the military justice system. A recent case of a 21-year-old female student at the Naval Academy has brought the need to reform Article 32 proceedings into vivid focus. The victim reported that three Navy football players raped her while she was intoxicated at a party but under an Article 32 proceeding had to endure more than five days and 30 hours of humiliating questions that were meant to intimidate her into dropping the case.
Attorney Susan Burke, an attorney who represents the Naval Academy victim and has been the staunchest legal advocate for survivors of military sexual assault, said about the proceedings: “No one should be forced to endure what the Naval Academy Midshipman recently endured: an abusive quasi-judicial charade that was intended to suppress rather than elicit truth. I applaud Senator Boxer and Congresswoman Speier for drafting legislation that will reform this broken system and call on their Congressional colleagues to ensure its immediate passage.”