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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."

Politico, a newspaper that covers the federal government, said Monday that "momentum has stalled" on Gillibrand's bill.

Weber, named 2013 California woman veteran leader of the year in September, holds little hope for the bill becoming law. "Honestly, no," she said. "It would be too good to be true."

Reps. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, are among the 145 co-sponsors of a bill by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, that would also remove sex crimes from military commanders' purview.

Her bill has languished in committee since April, and is unlikely to advance under the watch of House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Weber, an advocate for military sex assault victims, said the issue is simple. "When we are raped we should be able to report it to a professional.

"We're not trying to take down the military. We're just trying to stop rape."

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and other Democrats are backing bills, already included in the Senate's defense authorization measure, that expand legal counsel available to victims and make retaliation against victims a criminal offense.

Weber, who enlisted in the Army in 1993, said she was raped by another soldier assigned to her transportation company based in Germany the following year, when she was 18.

She reported the crime to other soldiers and officers, including an Army physician, but the military police were never called in. "I was just shut down," she said.

Weber said she was discharged nine months later, and received a 100 percent disability rating for military sexual trauma in 2003.

She suffers from anxiety, difficulty sleeping and an eating disorder and is getting Veterans Affairs counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Weber, who has spoken about military sex assault at more than 100 events in the last six years, also works with two nonprofits, Protect Our Defenders and the Military Rape Crisis Center.

She was included in the Oscar-nominated documentary about rape in the military, "The Invisible War," which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Two days after he saw the film in April 2012, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a directive ordering all sexual assault cases to be handled by senior officers at the rank of colonel or higher.

Two weeks ago, Weber described her rape and its impact on her life at an oversight hearing by the state Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee in Sacramento.

"I've been through hell," Weber said. "I was suicidal for a long time. The VA kept me alive with drugs."

"You've come through the worst of times and given much to other people," Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal told her.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)