The U.S. military often fails to provide justice to the children of service members when they are sexually assaulted by other kids on base. But new legislation passed by the Senate Monday seeks to close a jurisdictional gap that contributes to the problem.
In the civilian world, child-on-child sex assaults are handled by juvenile rehabilitation and punishment programs. But on military bases, because the bases are on federal land, local prosecutors don’t have the legal authority to go after juvenile criminal conduct that happens there.
Many victims never see their cases tried. Historically, federal prosecutors have pursued about one in seven juvenile sexual assault cases presented by military investigators, according to a release issued by Texas Senator John Cornyn’s office.
By way of response, Cornyn crafted the Children of Military Protection Act, provisions of which passed as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
In an address to the Senate, Cornyn said he’d been made aware of the issue by a military lawyer who was concerned that juvenile sexual assault cases were falling through the cracks after being shunted into the jurisdiction of overwhelmed U.S. attorneys and federal courts.
“Families whose children have been sexually assaulted on base by another child are forced to seek justice from federal prosecutors who often don’t have the resources to pursue the case,” Cornyn said. “This is a particular problem … at Fort Hood in central Texas.
“Our children who live on military bases must be protected at all costs. When they’re sexually assaulted, their juvenile assailant should not escape justice because of the constraints of the status quo.”
The newly-passed legislation gives criminal jurisdiction of child-on-child sexual assault cases back to the state, commonwealth, or territory where the military base is located.
In Texas, an Associated Press investigation found at least 56 sex assault or rape cases among juveniles on military bases since 2007. Fort Hood had the most, with 41, followed by Fort Bliss with 10.
Carson Frame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carson_frame