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Rohnert Park woman battles sexual assault in military

  • Kate Weber, who is on an advisory committee for the Military Rape Crisis Center, is calling for public support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's bill to remove sex crime prosecutions from the military chain of command.
    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

Kate Weber wants Congress to do something about sexual assault in the military, which the Pentagon said happened to 26,000 service men and women last year.

The Rohnert Park woman has potent allies in the Senate, where the issue has united conservative Republicans, liberal Democrats and two tea party leaders.

But Weber, 39, a married mother of four who says she was raped by a soldier 19 years ago in Germany, isn't holding out much hope for reform of the military criminal justice system.

"I'm scared," said Weber, who has testified about her experience before lawmakers and appeared in a documentary film that brought widespread attention to the problem. "I have a lot of emotions riding on this legislation."

Aides to Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York say that Gillibrand's bill — the Military Justice Improvement Act — is due for consideration on the Senate floor this week.

The bill would remove sexual assault prosecution from the military chain of command. It will be offered as an amendment to the $625 billion defense authorization bill.

Joining Boxer and Gillibrand in support of the bill are 44 other senators, including conservative Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa and tea party leaders Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

But the idea of placing sex crime cases in the hands independent military prosecutors has powerful opponents, including top Pentagon officials and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who say it would undermine commanders' authority.

A Pentagon survey released in May cited the estimate of 26,000 sex assault victims, noting that only 3,374 crimes were reported.

"The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this," President Barack Obama said at the time, asserting that perpetrators should be "stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period."


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