Senators Introduce Legislation to Remove Sexual Harassment Cases from Military Chain of Command
Apr 28 2022
Bill is supported by family of Vanessa Guillén, numerous organizations working on behalf of survivors, their families
Washington–Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today joined Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to introduce the Sexual Harassment Independent Investigations and Prosecutions (SHIIP) Act.
The bill would remove sexual harassment investigations and prosecutions from the military chain of command and require these cases to be handled by a new special trial counsel. The bill contains key provisions of the I am Vanessa Guillen Act that were not included in the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House last week by Representatives Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) on the two-year anniversary of the murder of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillén.
Senator Feinstein is a strong supporter of efforts led by Senators Hirono and Gillibrand to meaningfully address the problem of sexual assault and harassment in the military. She is also a cosponsor of Senator Gillibrand’s legislation, the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would professionalize how the military prosecutes sexual assault cases.
“Sexual harassment in the military remains a serious problem and one that Congress has failed to address for too long,” said Senator Feinstein. “This bill aims to help keep our service members safe and ensure perpetrators are held accountable, and would advance the pursuit of justice for victims of sexual harassment. More work remains to be done and I will continue working with my colleagues in the Senate to support and protect the men and women of our armed forces.”
“Our servicemembers have the right to an environment free of sexual harassment. But for far too long, the military’s response to this crime has failed survivors,” Senator Hirono said. “Just as we did with sexual assault in this year’s NDAA, the SHIIP Act shifts prosecutorial decisions for sexual harassment outside the chain of command and requires reports of sexual harassment to be investigated outside the immediate chain of command. This important legislation will help provide survivors the support they deserve while holding those responsible accountable and restoring faith in the military justice system. It is an important step forward in our work to end harassment and assault in the military.”
“The servicemembers who selflessly defend our nation deserve a military justice system that is responsive to their concerns and acts independently to decide cases fairly and equitably,” said Senator Booker. “For far too long, this system has failed to adequately address cases of military sexual harassment and assault. I am proud to support this vital, bicameral legislation that will enact meaningful and long-overdue reforms to better protect and serve victims of military sexual trauma.”
“Sexual harassment in the military is a pervasive problem—time and again, veterans, survivors and legal experts have testified that investigations of sexual harassment and prosecution of these crimes should be taken outside the chain of command. The SHIIP Act addresses this problem by ensuring that allegations of sexual harassment are investigated and prosecuted by independent, trained experts free from command influence, further professionalizing our military justice system,” said Senator Gillibrand, chair of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee.
The SHIIP Act builds on the language included in the FY22 NDAA to move prosecutorial decisions for cases of military sexual assault out of the chain of command. Specifically, the bill would:
- move prosecutorial decisions for sexual harassment from commanders to the new special trial counsel created by the FY22 NDAA, so that independent military attorneys decide which sex-related offenses go to court-martial, and
- utilize the new, independent sexual assault investigators created by the FY22 NDAA to investigate sexual harassment.
The SHIIP Act is supported by the Guillén family and the following organizations: Protect Our Defenders, Service Women's Action Network, Modern Military Association of America, Never Alone Advocacy and Red, White and Bruised.