Measure To Combat Sexual Assault Would Limit Military Commanders’ Power

A group of U.S. senators, including Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, is pressing to strip military commanders of the authority to decide how to handle accusations of rape within their units.

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Murkowski said at a press conference on Wednesday that every general who has ever come to her office to discuss the problem says they same thing – that they have zero-tolerance for sexual assault.

“’We have our eyes wide open’ – well, they’ve had their eyes wide open for 20 years!” Murkowski said.

Murkowski says the Pentagon’s time to address the problem has expired. The measure she supports would let military prosecutors decide which cases to pursue.

A former Marine Corps officer who says she was assaulted in 2010 also spoke at the event. Iraq veteran Ariana Klay says when she reported the rape, her commanders blamed and humiliated her.

“The humiliation of the retaliation was worse than the assault because it was sanctioned from the same leaders I would have once risked my life for,” Klay said.

The senators who turned out to support the measure ranged from New York Democrat Kristen Gillibrand to Texas Republican Ted Cruz.

Top Pentagon leaders have come out against the idea, saying it will leave commanders unable to crack down on sexual assault in their ranks.

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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska’s congressional delegation, federal agency decisions that shape life in the 49th state, money in politics and elections. She has deep roots in Alaska and this is her third stint in Washington, a city she has grown to love.

She was born in Anchorage and is a West High graduate. She studied political science at the University of Washington and has an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia. During graduate school, she moved to Washington to intern as a D.C. correspondent. But for her first real journalism job, she moved back to Alaska to work at the Homer News. She was there for three years before taking a job at the Anchorage Daily News. Over the course of nine years in Anchorage, she covered City Hall, courts, state politics, and Native and rural affairs.

Then, in April 2001, she moved back to Washington to work in McClatchy Newspaper’s D.C. bureau as a correspondent for the Anchorage paper. She stayed in the position for five years.

She took a year off for a journalism fellowship at the University of Colorado in Boulder, then freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio.

When a vacancy occurred in APRN’s one-person Washington bureau, she jumped at the opportunity. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013.

lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz