(CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has announced new initiatives to curtail what he calls "the epidemic" of rape and sexual assaults in our armed forces. In 2010, an estimated 19,000 service members were raped or sexually assaulted by other service members. Clearly, more resources devoted to counseling for victims and training for prosecutors and judges will help.
But the incidence of unpunished rapes will continue and so will the damaging effects these illegal acts have on troop morale and preparedness. This epidemic requires an overhaul of the military justice system.
The military's chain of command structure keeps most cases of rape and sexual assault from reaching the prosecution level. According to a Defense Department study, only 8% of sexual assailants are referred to military court, compared with 40% of similar offenders prosecuted in the civilian court system. The case of Army Spc. Andrea Neutzling of Ohio is a sad testimony to a justice system gone wrong.
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