Fixing Military Sexual Assault the Right Way

Retired Marine lawyer Butch Bracknell and I tackle the subject for The Hill.


My latest for The Hill, “Leaders must watch their words on military sexual assault,” has posted. I co-wrote it with my friend and former Atlantic Council colleague Butch Bracknell, who recently retired from the Marine Corps as a JAG officer. Most will be familiar to those who’ve read my postings here on the subject, so I’ll just give you Butch’s close:

Amos readily acknowledged he was disregarding prudent legal advice regarding how his words would influence jury members. In committing what he readily acknowledges is an ultra vires act, he personally doomed to failure a swath of the very sexual assault cases he aimed to bolster, while simultaneously inspiring a crisis of confidence in the military justice system.

This ruling should serve as a clarion call to military justice reformers on Capitol Hill not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. While major reforms in the military justice system may be warranted, including those enacted during the last legislative cycle, the system must carefully toe the line between effective accountability for sexual assault aggressors and a system that is fair, transparent, reliable and law-bound.

Finally, it should also alert executive branch leaders that protecting the constitutional and statutory rights of those who volunteered to serve is a moral imperative similar in quality and magnitude to the duty to protect victims of sexual assault. Military justice reform is necessary and required, but Congress must not let the pendulum swing freely at the expense of the rights of men and women serving our nation in uniform.

Much more at the link.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Military Affairs, Published Elsewhere, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Peabody says:

    Welcome words.

  2. President Camacho says:

    The sexual assault hysteria going on right now is absurd. The services prosecute cases no DA or AUSA would touch with a ten foot pole which is why the acquittal rate hovers around the 60% mark. The services have incentivized being a victim that we will see more and more false claims – lifetime VA benefits, a PCS move to another intallation, immunity for misconduct he/she committed. Congress has successfully broken the system by politicizing it.

  3. Rob in CT says:

    The services have incentivized being a victim

    I see wingnut central has put out the talking point. George Will has been making this claim as well (though with respect to colleges, not the military).

    Ah, the great privilege granted to people who have been (or claim to have been) raped. People are just gonna fall all over themselves to falsely claim victim status to get goodies.

    This is ridiculous. It’s ridiculous in the same way that the old claim about homosexuality: that the “gay lifestyle” was “glamourous” and that’s why “confused” kids “chose” to be gay. Yeah, sure, people were actually choosing to be members of a persecuted minority. That makes sense. Likewise, the idea that “victim status” grants such tremendous privilege is absurd. The reaction to victims of sexual assault is, here on Earth Prime, actually generally awful.

    There is some small % of false allegations, and there always will be. That problem, while real, is utterly dwarfed by the problem of actual assaults.

  4. President Camacho says:

    @Rob in CT: I don’t read George Will but I have tried a lot of cases in the Army on both the prosecution and defense side. Do some reading at This view isn’t a talking point. False claims are a big concern as the incentives to claim sexual assault continue to grow.

  5. Rob in CT says:

    @President Camacho:

    Sure, false claims are a legit concern, and no doubt a terrible experience for those subjected to them. It’s just a smaller problem than the actual rapes, is what I’m saying. And lots of folks, perhaps not you, but others, love to use stories (real or imagined) of false accusations to avoid dealing with the larger problem.

  6. President Camacho says:

    @Rob in CT: Agree totally. The problem is that Congress isn’t trying to deal with the problem. They barely understand the UCMJ which is evident by some of their recent legislation and their statements. When they hold up movies like the “Invisible War” and try to base legislation and decisions on that, well, that’s not helping anyone. The Invisible War was about as factual as Star Wars.

  7. Mike says:

    So at what point will Amos be held accountable for ignoring legal advice, giving the speech, thereby giving this guy a free pass on sexual assault? Can he at least be required to apologize to the victim?

  8. MarkedMan says:

    Speaking as an outsider, it sounds like the claim is “this general said the wrong thing so we aren’t going to prosecute rapists anymore. We just can’t. “

  9. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: Realize that the ruling is from a female, civilian judge who specializes in military law. This isn’t the military covering up—it’s the law being applied. As in civilian justice, the focus of military justice is on fairness for the accused, not justice for the victims. That’s as it should be.