In a historic hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill, all the heads of the U.S. armed forces appeared for the first time before the Senate Armed Services Committee. They were grilled about the growing problem of sexual assault in the military.
A recent Pentagon report found there were as many as 26,000 sexual assaults within the military last year, up from 19,000 in 2011.
"Nobody who volunteers to serve our country should be subjected to this kind of treatment by those with whom they serve," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said.
Victims often hesitate to report the crimes because of a lack of trust in their commanding officers, claiming many are soft on enforcing accountability.
"We are acting swiftly and deliberately to change a climate that has become a bit complacent," Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified.
Congress is now considering at least seven bills that would overhaul the military justice system.
One proposal would take prosecution of sexual assaults out of the chain of command, preventing commanding officers from deciding which crimes should go to trial.
But that proposal is being opposed by top military brass.
"It will undermine the readiness of the force," Army Gen. Ray Odierno said. "It will inhibit our commanders' ability to shape the climate and discipline of our units."
"Most importantly," he said, "it will hamper the timely delivery of justice to the very people. We wish to help the victims and survivors of these horrific crimes."
But some victims of military sexual assault, such as retired Air Force Sgt. Jennifer Norris, want changes.
"The system is rigged against the victims," she said.
A majority of the seats in the Senate Armed Services Committee are now held by women.
"This isn't about sex," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told the panel. "This about assaultive (sic) domination and violence."