New bill takes military sexual assault cases out of high-ranking officers’ power

Via Ms. Blog, we find a new bill was introduced late last week regarding sexual assault in the military with a specific focus: to take the responsibility of handling sexual assault reports away from the chain of command.

The bill is called the STOP Act: The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act – Helen Benedict gives us examples of why this bill matters:

  • Most assailants are of higher rank than their victims, which means some victims are forced to report their rapes to the rapist.
  • Victims who report a sexual assault to commanders can never remain truly anonymous, despite a policy to the contrary, because military platoons are closed, gossipy units in which everyone knows everyone else. This opens anyone who reports a sexual assault to possible revenge, threats and punishment.
  • Nothing at the moment can stop commanders from choosing to protect their careers and reputations from scandal by silencing a victim with threats or actual punishment. The military is rife with stories of victims who have been punished for trying to report a rape.

So rather than having to report a rape or sexual assault to a higher-ranked official, a special office would handle each case separately, keeping survivors protected — and offenders accountable.

This bill makes complete sense, considering how prevalent sexual assault actually is — and continues to be — in the military. In short, something’s gotta give; it sounds like this might be that something.

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