Standing Together to End Sexual Assault is voicing support for the Senate’s Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act.
The bill was introduced in late April. If passed by Congress, it would change the protocol for handling sexual assault in the military by moving the decision of whether to prosecute away from commanders and into the oversight of independent, professional military prosecutors.
According to a news release, the bill would also increase and improve sexual assault training in the military, promote a zero-tolerance policy and increase security by installing locks and cameras.
The bill comes after the Pentagon reported that nearly 21,000 military members — 13,000 women and 7,500 men — had experienced sexual assault in 2019.
This marked a 37% increase from the previous report in 2017.
“Sexual assault has been an epidemic in the military, partly due to the way in which it is addressed and prosecuted,” STESA, formerly known as the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, wrote in its news release. “The current system for prosecuting sexual assaults in the military defers to the chain of command, which has failed to ensure accountability, and disproportionately punishes black and brown service members.”
According to a news release, the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act already has the support of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and organizations such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Currently, the bill has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Armed Services for review.
STESA, which provides counseling services for victims of sexual assault and their loved ones across Santa Barbara County, is supporting this bill in support of survivors.
“While it is not the wish of every survivor to seek legal justice from perpetrators, STESA supports this act as a crucial step in improving accountability in the military and ensuring justice for those survivors who seek legal justice,” the organization wrote in its news release.