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Ernst Defends Vote on Sexual Assault in the Military

Clay Masters/IPR
Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst

Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says new rules to combat sexual assault in the military are working.    And she says more time is needed before taking more difficult steps to address the problem.  

Ernst voted Tuesday against taking the commanding officer out of the decision to prosecute offenders.   

Ernst says she doesn’t want to tie the hands of a commanding officer who may want to prosecute an offender.    

She says a December survey shows military personnel are expressing more trust in their commanding officers.

“There is progress being made,” Ernst says.   “Should there be a time in the future that we need to make a more difficult decision by taking it out of the chain of command, we will face that at that time.”    

Ernst gained attention when she revealed her own experience with sexual harassment during her years of service.  

Ernst led the way for other recent reforms, including protection against retaliation for those reporting assaults, and independent counsel for victims.

“They do have somebody independent that they can talk to,” Ernst says, “to talk through how to go about the prosecution process.”

Ernst says, as a result, more military personnel are coming forward with complaints.

Ernst says other measures should be given  more time to work.  For example, it’s now a criminal offense to retaliate against a member of the military who complains of sexual assault, or to give a poor evaluation to the special counsel just for speaking out for victims.      Also, a victim who reports sexual assault can not be penalized for so-called collateral misconduct, such as drinking when the reported incident occurred.