Helen Varney Burst
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Justice for Military Sexual Trauma Victims: Pass the Military Justice Improvement Act
Of the 26,000 sexual assaults in 2012, only 3,374 were reported and only 302 were brought to trial. I am a retired U.S. Navy Veteran and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) survivor. And like many other victims in the military, I was harassed, and humiliated by my Chain of Command after reporting my abuse. But a bipartisan bill before the U.S. Senate right now can completely change how sexual assaults in the military are handled - the Military Justice Improvement Act. As it stands now, any U.S. Military personnel, male or female, who are sexually assaulted or harassed are at the mercy of their own Commanding Officers who have full jurisdiction and discretion in prosecuting these cases. In many of the cases the perpetrator is not prosecuted while the victim is treated as the criminal, ostracized and harassed by their own command and often their military service stands in jeopardy. This is why so many assaults go unreported. Even though I was raped while in the Navy, my case it is a story of command harassment. During a 5 year period I was harassed, by my command because the Maintenance Officer didn't want "women in his Navy". Between being raped and continuously harassed I was diagnosed with PTSD in 2001. I was raped and it was traumatizing, but the most devastating thing was the Command Harassment. The Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 967) changes this by taking the Commanding Officer out of the case and providing a specialized legal group in charge of investigating and prosecuting these cases. This is a common sense step that our closest allies, including the UK, Canada, Australia and Israel, have made to their militaries. The Military Justice Improvement Act has bipartisan support but needs more votes to pass and it will be voted on this week. Your Senator needs to hear from you about this important bill now! I spent 20 years trying to run away from the hell the Navy put me though. I was told that all of my problems were between my ears. They tried to Court Marshal me, they harassed me on a daily basis, and when I was transferred the harassment continued because my perpetrator picked up the phone and had me labeled a troublemaker before I even checked in. If the Military Justice Improvement Act had been passed then, that wouldn't have happened to me. Help us get the word to Congress that the rape culture in the military is still prevalent. Tell them we will no longer allow our men and women in the military to be raped, tell them that we WILL hold them accountable. I am taking a stand against the unjust persecution of my brothers and sisters that are victims of MST and harassment. Please join me by asking your Senator to support the Military Justice Improvement Act.