WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Virginia Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner have signed on as cosponsors of legislation that would change the way the military handles sexual assault cases.
The "Military Justice Improvement Act" would move cases out of the chain of command and instead have them handled by military prosecutors.
Sexual assault cases would stay in the military system, but commanders who often lack legal training would no longer play the significant role they currently have in such matters.
Kaine and Warner, both Democrats, say the time has come to try something new after years of reforms that haven't yielded significant progress.
"I have supported dozens of reforms to give the military chain of command more tools to deal with the scourge of sexual assault. But I have been deeply disappointed with the lack of meaningful progress toward making the military a place free from the debilitating effects of discrimination and violence that not only hurt individual servicemen and women but also corrode the unity and ethics needed for effective operations. The harassment and murder of Vanessa Guillen and the extensive analysis of the culture responsible for her death convinced me that the path we are on is unlikely to lead to success," Kaine said in a statement.
"We now need fundamental change to tackle this epidemic, especially after the brutal murder of U.S. Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen. Senator Gillibrand’s bill takes significant steps to change how the military prosecutes serious crimes such as rape and provides new tools to help stem the tide of sexual assault within the ranks. While this bill is not a cure-all solution, we must take bold steps to establish justice and accountability for victims of sexual assault," Warner said in his own statement.
Currently the Pentagon is undergoing a 90-day review of sexual assault issues in the military.