Military Sexual Assault: Farewell to the 'Good Soldier' Defense


A "good soldier" can no longer escape a rape charge in the military.
Legislation passed by the Senate late Monday puts an end to a defense commonly used in military sexual assault cases. The "good soldier" defense — meaning a sergeant could cite his or her fine military record as a defense if charged with sexual assault — is now set to become history, Time reported.
The move is part of a wide-ranging bill to combat sexual assault in the ranks. It’s also expected to pass the House.
According to the AP, the Senate voted 97-0 in support of the bipartisan plan devised by three female senators — Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Republicans Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Deb Fischer of Nebraska — that would impose a half-dozen changes to combat the pervasive problem of rape and sexual offenses that Pentagon leaders have likened to a cancer within the ranks.
Time also reported:
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) championed the legislation, and said the "good soldier" defense is "the ridiculous notion that how well one flies a plane should have anything to do with whether they committed a crime" (the defense will still be allowed in cases where the accused’s record is directly relevant to the charges).
The unanimous vote was in sharp contrast to last week, when military leaders opposed a measure by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would have stripped commanders of their authority to prosecute cases and given that power to seasoned military lawyers outside the chain of command. The Senate voted 55-45 for that bill, but that was five votes short of the necessary 60.
Cheers to change!
Photo: Fort Leonard Wood/flwflicker via Creative Commons/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)