On May 31st, 2013, the California Women’s Law Center hosted a press conference with U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer and military sexual assault survivor, Stacey Thompson. Senator Boxer is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 967, the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013. The bill, authored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, addresses Military Sexual Trauma (MST) by removing decisions about prosecuting instances of sexual assault in the military from the military hierarchy and places this responsibility in the hands of independent lawyers.
For the first time, MST survivor Stacey Thompson shared her personal experience and called on Congress to pass legislation that would have brought her rapist to justice had Senate Bill 967 been in place during her MST experience. Thompson faced retaliation from her superiors after bringing her rape to their attention and was ultimately discharged as a result.
Boxer spoke about the need to end sexual assault and rape in the military. She emphasized flaws in the system saying, “the current military justice system gives commanders the power to make sure that even rock solid cases never see the light of day in court.” The Department of Defense estimated that approximately 26,000 servicemen and women were sexually assaulted in 2012. Ninety percent of cases went unreported, and only 238 attackers were convicted out of 3,374 reported cases.
The Military Justice Improvement Act’s passage would mean an upheaval of seriously entrenched military policy, removing the commander’s power to decide whether or not to prosecute cases involving serious crimes such as sexual assault, giving the cases directly to trained military prosecutors. CWLC supports the Military Justice Improvement Act and strongly believes that systemic change is necessary to better protect survivors of sexual assault in the military.