There are officially two months left until November — which means there are just two months left before citizens everywhere will vote for the 45th President of the United States of America. These few weeks will be imperative for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, as they will face off against one another in debates and appeal their arguments to the electorate in a last ditch effort to win votes. During Wednesday night's NBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, Donald Trump was a prime example of that fact. However, rather than winning the hearts of undecideds, it was more likely that Trump's answer to rape in the military left viewers with a strange taste in their mouths, and frustrated that, as with so many other topics, he had failed to broach the core of the issue.
Parents and teachers have always warned us: What we say on the internet will be there forever. This is especially true for Trump, who is constantly having to defend his older tweets and social media posts, due to their controversial nature. During the forum, which aired on NBC, Trump found himself explaining and elaborating on one tweet from three years ago — which provided some very telling information. After being confronted by moderator Matt Lauer, according to The Los Angeles Times, Trump defended a post from 2013 that made one very large and general assumption about sexual assault: That men and women working together in the military had caused rape and sexual assault to happen in the first place.
The tweet in question has been brought up several times throughout Trump's campaign, and has only served to cause him stumble after stumble. Following a question from an audience member, a veteran, about his daughter's concerns with joining the military (namely the high numbers of sexual assaults perpetrated on both men and women), Lauer asked Trump to specify more about the tweet, which read:
26,000 unreported sexual assults [sic] in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?
"Well, it is a correct tweet," Trump said. "There are many people that think that's absolutely correct." Trump then began to elaborate:
Well it's happening, right? And since then it's gotten worse. Not take them out, but something has to happen. Right now part of the problem is that nobody gets prosecuted...You have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There are no consequences.
Trump's follow up commentary reiterates what everyone already knows — sexual assault in the military has got to stop and that there should be consequences. But this isn't because men and women are working or living together. Trump himself even insisted on Wednesday night that he doesn't want to remove women from the military.
The lack of convictions or consequences could be because the military handles sexual assault rulings in its own courts and members often face conflict because of it. However, according to Time, Trump was fine with the current system, suggesting as a solution that the armed forces rebuff the "court system within the military" that was already in place.
The problem is this: Trump cannot state that something has to happen and say there are no consequences for alleged offenders, then at the same time further support the military handling its own sexual assault cases. According to War on the Rocks, military justice is different from civilian justice, in large part because crimes are handled through the chain of command, instead of a traditional justice system.
According to Frontline, "a victim's commanding officer has the ability to intervene at any point: to stop an investigation, reduce a sentence, or set aside a conviction. Meanwhile, civilian courts don't have this kind of pressure. This means that military defendants need more protection than if their case was handled in a civilian court. Are you sensing the problem?
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been fighting against Trump's statement of adding more military courts to handle sexual assault cases. The Military Justice Improvement Act would leave serious crimes, such as sexual assault, to be handled by independently trained military professional prosecutors and leave military crimes to the chain of command. This proposed solution is revolutionary and suggests to victims of sexual assault that it is okay to speak up about their attacks, without having to face fears of being reprimanded by superiors for reporting such things.
Trump is right when he says that something has to happen — but his proposed solution is definitely disappointing.