WUSF
By Sarah Pusateri

When soldiers are raped, sexually assaulted or harassed in the military, they’re required to report that abuse to their immediate supervisors.

The problem is, sometimes that supervisor is the one committing the abuse.

A new bill introduced to Congress addresses this issue – as well as others.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has introduced a bill she calls The Stop Act: The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act. The goal is to change the way military sexual trauma, or MST, is handled in the military.

“I find out that, literally, by [the Department of Defense's] own estimate, 19-thousand members of the military are sexually assaulted or raped every year. And of those only 13% report them,” Speier explains.

She says she realized she needed to get involved after walking into a committee hearing on military rape.

“I thought I had been taken back in time to the 60’s because the excuses and the rationale were all the kinds of things being said in the 60’s. ‘Oh well, she wore a  provocative dress, and she was consenting to it.’”

Speier says just as disturbing is the fact that only 8% of reported military rapes are taken into a court setting.

“When you extrapolate all those numbers, you get down to 500 court marshals a year and 200 convictions. We’ve got a problem.”

Currently soldiers are required to report sexual assault to their immediate supervisor who then takes the complaint up the chain. This can be problematic, however, if the supervisor is also the offender.

She’s hoping “The Stop Act” will change that.

For one, the bill will get rid of non-judicial punishments. In other words, punishments will be handed down by a judge and not by commanders in the military who may be protecting their colleagues.

Second, the bill will create a separate office with experts to handle investigations and a unit to provide medical services.

While Speier says Military Sexual Trauma is not new, there’s been hesitation to tackle the issue.

“The military is a bit of a sacred cow. No one wants to look like they’re taking the military on. I’m not interested in taking the military on – I’m just interested in ridding the military of this scorch. The stories are horrific. The stories send chills up and down people’s spines when they hear them.”

Speier says currently the bill has 65 co-sponsors.

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