Congresswoman Chellie Pingree was sharply critical today of proposed changes in Pentagon rules relating to rape and sexual assault. During a briefing to the House Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials said they are expanding the definition of "force" in considering evidence in rape and sexual assault cases.
Pingree, a member of the Committee, said the proposed changes don't go nearly far enough.
"The problem is that the focus is still on the victim--whether or not they struggled or how hard they struggled," Pingree said. "The primary standard shouldn't be how much of a fight the victim put up, it should be whether they consented. That's state law in most of the country and just makes sense."
Although Pentagon officials say they will consider whether the victim consented to sex as a "secondary" factor, Pingree said making victims prove the perpetrator used force is still an unreasonable standard. During the briefing Pingree pressed Pentagon officials to use consent as the main factor in sexual assault cases.
"I've talked with too many victims of sexual assault in the military who couldn't prove that a senior officer actually used force against them. But that doesn't mean they weren't raped. Under the current system, military prosecutors look at things like whether or not a weapon was used or if the victim suffered physical injury. Really all they need to ask is "did the victim give consent?'" Pingree said.