The system, the senator asserts, opens the victim up to retaliation. Gillibrand and others feel that a commander cannot be an impartial figure and may be inclined to protect not just the victim but the perpetrator who is also his or her subordinate.
"When we just talk (to victims) informally, they tell us they don't report because they are afraid of retaliation, being marginalized, having their careers end or being blamed," she said on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper. "And so what we have to do is create a different dynamic so they feel more comfortable reporting."
The military defines unwanted sexual contact as sexual crimes prohibited by military law, from rape to abusive sexual contact.
Of those estimated 26,000 cases in the Pentagon survey, only 3,374 came forward to report an alleged sexual crime in 2012. While that disparity is clear; the lower number still marks a 6% increase in the report of alleged sexual crimes compared with 2011, the report showed.
At a Thursday press conference, survivors of sexual assault spoke about the hell they've been through and how difficult it was to have their cases investigated.
Retired Air Force Technical Sgt. Jennifer Norris said she thought it was a better option to "suck it up" than to report being assaulted.
"I did not want to be stigmatized for reporting my assaults as I tried to move forward in my career," she said. "Instead the best option for me was to try and endure it, to suck it up, and try and make it till I could get transferred somewhere else only to have it happen over and over again like a recurring nightmare."
Norris began to weep.
Former Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brian Lewis was stationed in Guam when he was raped, he told reporters.
"After the rape, I was told by my command not to file a formal report with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service," he said. "When I was reassigned to seek medical help, my psychiatrist told me that I was lying about my rape and diagnosed me with a personality disorder."
Lewis was discharged in August 2001.
"I have been fighting to correct my record ever since," he said.