STESA Supports U.S. Senate’s Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act
The U.S. military reveals high numbers of sexual assault among its ranks. In 2019, the Pentagon reported that almost 21,000 service members (https://www.npr.org/2021/04/23/990174459/military-panel-urges-taking-sexual-assault-cases-out-of-commanders-control), 13,000 females and 7,500 males, had experienced sexual assault, 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. 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
(https://www.npr.org/2021/06/22/1009272055/defense-secretary-says-hell-support-removing-sexual-offense-cases-from-commander) Black and brown service members. Furthermore, the insularity of the current prosecution system does not protect survivors from retaliation (https://vawnet.org/sc/sexual-violence-military-0), especially from perpetrators who outrank them, and with whom they must work.
The bipartisan Military Justice Improvement And Increasing Prevention Act (https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/news/press/release/senators-gillibrand-grassley-ernst-blumenthal-cruz-shaheen-kelly-and-military-sexual-assault-advocates-introduce-new-bipartisan-military-justice-improvement-and-increasing-prevention-act), introduced by Senator Gillibrand in late April, would change the protocol for handling sexual assault cases in the military by moving the decision on whether to prosecute away from commanders, who are not legally trained, to independent, trained, and professional military prosecutors. It also seeks to improve prevention of sexual assault and other serious crimes by increasing and improving sexual assault training within the military to ensure a zero-tolerance environment for such crimes. A final set of risk reduction measures includes improving physical security for service members by installing locks, security cameras, etc.
The Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act enjoys support (https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/news/press/release/senators-gillibrand-grassley-ernst-blumenthal-cruz-shaheen-kelly-and-military-sexual-assault-advocates-introduce-new-bipartisan-military-justice-improvement-and-increasing-prevention-act) from California’s Senator Feinstein, various cosponsors, and organizations such as the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. 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.
Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) provides confidential counseling and support services to survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. Through education and awareness, STESA is committed to change the cultural norms that enable sexual assault to exist. Our service area extends from Carpinteria to the Santa Ynez Valley.
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Standing Together to End Sexual Assault (STESA) – Formerly the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center, empowers people through healing and social change to eliminate all forms of sexual violence. We are committed to transforming lives by providing services and education to meet the needs of our diverse community.
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As a sexual assault survivor, I know first-hand the importance of STESA’s work. I remember how alone I felt following my assault, and it’s something I’d never wish for another survivor to experience. STESA plays an essential role in providing expert crisis and long-term supportive services to survivors in our community. STESA staff members are compassionate and dedicated to healing and empowering survivors, preventing sexual violence, and creating social change through education. By giving my time and financial support to STESA, I know that I am supporting other survivors and transforming lives.
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The nightly news is filled with appalling damage caused by sexual assault to the individuals it touches and to our community’s well-being. Through the #MeToo movement, we have made important strides in support of survivors of sexual assault. Through this work, we hope that all perpetrators of sexual violence are held accountable for their crimes and that survivors receive the support and justice they deserve.
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