National Women’s Law Center Celebrates President Biden’s Executive Order Strengthening Military’s Response to Sexual Assault

Washington, DC – Today, President Biden will sign an Executive Order to implement reforms to the military justice system that significantly strengthen how the military handles sexual assault cases. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) applauds this directive, which transfers key decision-making authority from commanders to specialized, independent military prosecutors in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence, murder, and other serious offenses by amending the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Taking these decisions out of the line of command will help ensure fairer processes and will make it less likely that victims of sexual assault and other serious offenses will experience retaliation when they come forward. 

This Executive Order implements reforms passed by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (FY22 NDAA) and confirms the Administration’s commitment to protect victims of harassment and violence in the military workplace. This prioritization by the White House of the significant transformation of the military justice system comes after decades of advocacy by survivors and organizations. The movement was bolstered in the wake of the disappearance and murder of Specialist Vanessa Guillen in 2020, and the viral #IAmVanessaGuillen movement that ensued in the months after. 

The following is a statement from Fatima Goss Graves, president & CEO of the National Women’s Law Center: 

“One of our core commitments in the fight for gender justice is to create a country where everyone has the right to be free from sexual violence and sex-based harassment in every place where they live, learn, and work. We applaud President Biden for issuing this Executive Order to better protect victims and ensure prosecutorial decisions are fully independent from the chain of command, helping to realize a better future for all of us. We also know that ensuring justice for survivors of sexual assault is inextricably linked to the fight for reproductive rights for all people, and we are grateful for the administration’s steadfast commitment to continuing that critical work. “