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Lawmakers Demand Change In How Military Handles Sex Assault Cases

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Naval Academy
Meghan McCorkell 370x278 Meghan McCorkell
Meghan McCorkell joined the Eyewitness News team in July 2011 as a...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Taking a tough stand against sexual assaults in the military. Lawmakers are demanding that decisions about assault cases be taken out of the chain of command–this after a Pentagon survey uncovered that tens of thousands of military members were victims of unwanted sexual contact but didn’t report it.

Meghan McCorkell has more on the new push.

Lawmakers say military prosecutors–not commanders–should be making the decision about whether sexual assault cases should move forward.

A graduate of the Naval Academy and Iraq war veteran, Lieutenant Ariana Klay left the Marines after she was she was gang raped by fellow officers.

“When I reported the assault, my command responded with retaliation,” Klay said.

The incident allegedly happened in 2009 at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., where Klay says the commander fostered a hostile environment.

“He decided in writing that calling officers sluts and whores was not harassment and that any harassment was deserved because of what I wore or that I complained about it,” she said.

“She never should have had to learn the lessons she did and the military still hasn’t learned it,” said her husband Ben.

Now, Klay and her husband are working alongside Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to push an amendment that would take decisions about prosecuting assault cases out of the chain of command.

“Sexual assault in the military is not new. It has been allowed to fester in the shadows for far too long,” Senator Gillibrand said.

Department of Defense officials say they have a zero tolerance policy for sexual assaults.

Naval Academy officials have revamped sexual assault prevention and response programs on campus but Klay says it’s not enough.

“It is impossible to expect justice in a legal system run primarily by commanders with no legitimate legal training,” she said.

Until that changes, she says she fears victims will fear coming forward.

Senator Gillibrand is trying to gain support for her amendment in the Defense Authorization bill.

Two Naval Academy football players are currently facing court-martial, accused of assaulting another midshipman.

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