Victims of sexual assault and violence in the military told Congress Wednesday they're afflicted with a slow and uncaring system of justice that too often fails to hold perpetrators accountable and is fraught with institutional bias.
They testified to a Senate panel examining the military's handling of sexual assault cases that the military justice system is broken and urged Congress to make changes in the law that would stem the rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that they said are pervasive in the service branches.
Defense Department officials said they have taken aggressive steps to combat sexual assault in the ranks. In written testimony to be delivered later Wednesday, Robert Taylor, the Pentagon's acting general counsel, called sexual assault an "abhorrent crime" that does enormous harm to the victim and undermines the good order and discipline that is essential in military units.
Rebekah Havrilla, a former Army sergeant, told the panel that she encountered a "broken" military criminal justice system after she was raped by another service member while serving in Afghanistan. Havrilla described suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and described how her case was eventually closed after senior commanders decided not to pursue charges.