Influencing the Law: Associate Dean Schenck Heads to Capitol Hill to Address Military Sexual Assault

Female veterans with almost 200 years of combined experience speak out on military sexual assault: "A commander cannot be held responsible if he does not have the authority to act."

Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH) opens the July 25 press conference discussing the Senate Armed Services Committee bipartisan reforms to combat military sexual assaults.

This July, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Lisa M. Schenck was on the Hill several times for meetings and a press conference with U.S. Senators and other female veterans to discuss sexual assault in the military services and proposed legislation that will take the chain of command out of the military justice process.

Throughout the month, Dean Schenck, along with retired female judge advocates and line officers, had several meetings with Senator Carl Levin (MI), Senator Claire McCaskill (MO), Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH),  Senator Mark Warner (VA), Senator John Tester (MT), Senator Jeff Chiesa (NJ), Senator John Thune (SD), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Senator Angus King (ME) to discuss the issues.

Then on July 25, the retired female service members and Senators McCaskill, Ayotte, and Tester came together for a press conference to discuss critical bipartisan reforms approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee to combat military sexual assaults. The group included a retired female judge advocate, retired commanders, and retired non-commissioned officers, who shared their views on why keeping commanders involved in prosecutions is critical to preventing military sexual assaults and better supporting victims.

"Military sexual assault is a serious problem that must be addressed. The bipartisan provisions in the defense bill passed by the Armed Services Committee include strong protections for victims, including a Special Victims’ Counsel to help victims throughout the process," said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former prosecutor. "Everything within the military happens within the chain of command. To make sure that victims are supported and that these cases are vigorously prosecuted, we can’t let commanders off the hook. Taking away their responsibility to act will also make it more difficult to hold them accountable."

"Yes, there should be change," Associate Dean Schenck said at the press conference.  "The proposal…the senators have talked about is really important for victims and it is going to address what needs to be addressed – victims' rights.  If you take out the convening authority from the process, you are essentially gutting the military justice process." 

Associate Dean Lisa Schenck at the July press conference,
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  her, the other veterans', and the Senators' remarks.