According to the U.S. military, there are 19,000 rapes and sexual assaults each year in the armed forces—most of them unreported—with hardly any cases ending in convictions or even in prosecution. According to the Department of Defense’s own data, 85 percent of victims do not report the crime, mostly out of fear that no one will believe them, or that they’ll suffer retaliation (as many victims say they endure after they report assaults.) As Protect Our Defenders, a human-rights organization dedicated to survivors of military sexual assault, has stated, most cases aren’t prosecuted because of fear of retaliation, and only 2,500 victims reported attacks in 2011. (The numbers for last year will be out at the end of this month.)
Now, U.S. legislators are renewing the push to change those dismal statistics. On Wednesday, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-California), Rep. Walter Jones (R-North Caroliana), and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) held a press conference to reintroduce bipartisan legislation—backed by 83 co-sponsors—for the Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act (STOP), which would create an independent office for reporting, investigating, and adjudicating military-sexual-assault cases outside of the normal chain of command. Their goal is to reform the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) by involving civilian oversight.