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Being 'good soldier' is no excuse for assault

On March 11, the United States Senate managed to unanimously approve a resolution. The 97—0 vote was in favor of a bill that made numerous changes to the military’s sexual assault policies, most notably getting rid of the “good soldier” defense in cases of alleged sexual assault.

Under the current system, a soldier’s good performance and pristine military record may be presented in his or her defense when charged with sexual assault of a fellow member of the military. Senator Claire McCaskill described the good soldier defense as “the ridiculous notion that how well one flies a plane should have anything to do with whether they committed a crime.”

As Major Franklin Rosenblatt wrote in a 2010 journal article published in The Army Lawyer quoted by Time Magazine, “In application, character witnesses are commonly called to testify about their willingness to deploy with an accused. Other allowable ‘good military character’ testimony includes that an accused is ‘dedicated to being a good drill instructor,’ lawful, easygoing, dependable, and well liked. With so many traits to choose from that are permissible and admissible, nearly anyone can qualify as a `good soldier.’”

Evidence had increasingly come to light regarding the number of unreported, unprosecuted sexual assault incidences in the United States military, and removing this defense is an excellent step toward properly punishing those who commit sexual assault.

This bill now has to pass the United States House of Representatives. Many hope that the measure will be passed in an effort to promote the prosecution and prevention of military sexual assault. Doing away with the absurd good soldier defense is certainly a step in the right direction.