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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript - Military Sexual Assault


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SCHIEFFER: And we turn now to Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and California Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier.

I want to talk more about this amazing hearing in the senate. It is really rare for one thing to see all of the top military commanders at one table at one time and the senators, especially the women on the committee, really pull no punches. Senator, you were at the hearing and here's just -- I want to have another look at what you said.

GILLIBRAND: Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.

SCHIEFFER: You were angry! You were angry! Do you think the military understands that this is a problem? I mean, do they get it?

GILLIBRAND: I think they understand it's a problem. I think the chairman of the joint chiefs said that he felt he dropped the ball to a certain degree. What we have here is a crisis. We have 26,000 unwanted sexual contacts, assaults and rapes a year. We know of the 3,300 who are willing to report that 70 percent of them are sexual assaults and rapes. It is a serious problem. These are serious crimes.

And what the victim tell us across the board is that they're afraid to report because of retaliation, because they've seen other women be retaliated against. Or they feel that they'll either be marginalized and their careers will be over, or they'll be blamed. And so until you have transparency and accountability and objectivity where the decision maker of whether you're going to trial or not, is an objective prosecutor, not a commander, you're not going to have the kind of reporting and, frankly, justice that we need in this system.

SCHIEFFER: Well, Congresswoman Speier, you have actually said the military has become enablers of sexual assault by not demanding that these cases be taken out of the chain of command. That really kind of goes against the military way of doing things. I mean, the commander is a guy who who tells the people "you've got go up that hill and if you don't go I'm back here and you're going to have to deal with me." If you take this out of the chain of command, how can the military -- how can they maintain discipline? I guess that's the argument they will make.

SPEIER: Well, I think there's a distinction between discipline -- which they absolutely should have total control over-- and crimes, felonies, violent crimes. And that's where the distinction should be made. And I think that's what both what Kirsten and I are interested in doing is fixing that component of it. They're enablers because this has been a problem for 25 years and for 25 years they've trotted up to Capitol Hill, they sat in committee hearings and they said all the right things, zero tolerance. But then the scandals keep happening.

SCHIEFFER: So what is it, Senator, that you want to do in your legislation?

GILLIBRAND: Well, we want to do what a number of our allies have already done, Israel, the U.K., other allies we fight side by side with. They have removed the serious crimes, rapes, murders, sexual assaults, outside of the chain of command into trained military prosecutors. And they made that shift because they needed objectivity in that decision. We believe that same change here in the U.S. system would make a big difference. Because, frankly, that's what the victims are telling us, that they have such fear of retaliation, such fear of having their careers be derailed that they aren't reporting. And until you see justice being done; until you see accountability in the system, you will not be able to change the culture. This is a cultural problem. It's from top to bottom. And that's why you need to see a major shift.

SCHIEFFER: Do you agree with that approach, Congresswoman?

SPEIER: Absolutely. Until there are more prosecutions and more convictions, this problem is not going to end.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what happens then -- let's say somebody is assaulted. So what does that person do?

SPEIER: So, presently, they have to file a report and it goes up the chain of command. And typically, with the chain of command, you have someone who knows the assailant, may even be the assailant, or is also concerned about a promotion. And having something under your watch take place that's a violent crime may not look too good when it comes time to being promoted. So historically, what's happened is they've found ways around it, either non-judicial punishment or saying to the victim "You know what? We think you have a personality disorder, so we're going to give you an honorable discharge, but you're going to leave." So typically you have the perpetrator getting promoted and the victim getting kicked out of the...


SCHIEFFER: And under your bill, what would that person do instead of filing this report, as you say?

GILLIBRAND: Well, there's many places where you can report today. You can report in many places, not just to your commander. But the difference is the decision-maker of whether or not you're going to take this case to trial rests with a trained military prosecutor. And in that way, there's objectivity. They're going to base it on the facts of the case and nothing else, no pressure about their own promotion, no bias perhaps because they know the perpetrator or know the victim. So that decision will be made in a more objective way, which we hope will instill more confidence by the victim in the system, that he or she has a chance to receive justice. And just to be clear, this is not just a woman's issue. More than half of the victims are men. This is a problem that is corrosive, that's undermined the integrity of the whole military and is undermining our military readiness. And if we want our troops to be ready for any -- any event that our military needs to prepare for, you're not going to be as strong as you would be otherwise if you have this within the ranks.

SCHIEFFER: Thank you all very much. We really appreciate you being here. And we'll be back.


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