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Biden backs major changes in way military investigates sexual assault

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President Joe Biden has formally approved a report calling for major changes in the way the military investigates sexual assaults within the ranks. The report amounts to a vote of no-confidence in the mostly male leaders of the American military to combat sexual assault. 

According to the report, roughly 135,000 active duty service members have been sexually assaulted since 2010. 

Among many of its “hard truths,” consider this damning sentence: “Military leadership has failed America’s daughters and sons, and the service members know it.”

“For decades, service leaders have said there is no tolerance for sexual assault, but in practice all too often there is nothing but tolerance,” said Lynn Rosenthal, who headed the commission whose findings and recommendations were endorsed by both Mr. Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. 

“Every survivor that we talked to who had made an unrestricted report — which means it would be fully investigated — told us they regretted it. Every one,” Rosenthal said. 

Sara Joachimstaler previously told “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell that, as part of a year-and-a-half-long investigation, she faced immediate retaliation. Joachimstaler was stripped of her rank. 

“They were trying to break me down,” she said. “They just go after you ’cause you’re the victim and you’re the problem.” 

Among the report’s recommendations is bringing in professionals from outside the military chain of command who actually know what they’re doing. 

“This is a system that has operated for decades with inexperienced lawyers and investigators and a near total lack of prevention specialists,” Rosenthal said. 

In the past, military leaders have resisted many of these changes, but Rosenthal said it’s time for them to show as much courage in combating sexual assault as survivors do in reporting it. 


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