Campaign to curb military sexual assaults continues

March 6, 2014 (CHICAGO)

Along with being a college student, Kati Beck is also an advocate, supporting and helping those who have experienced what is known as military sexual trauma, or sexual assault. She says it's difficult to report assaults to the chain of command, but she says it's important to tell her story to educate others and push for change.

Beck is back in Illinois after serving in the Air Force. While on active-duty, she says she experienced two sexual assaults.

"He had poured gasoline on me and he told me if he didn't do exactly what he said that he was going to light me on fire," said Beck.

Beck, who lives in Marengo now, says she was too afraid to report that 2002 attack. Four years later, a different man in her unit assaulted her. This time, she told her chain of command, but charges were dropped.

"He ended up getting promoted actually," said Beck.

So when Beck heard Thursday that the Senate blocked a bill that would have stripped military commanders of their authority to prosecute sex assaults, and instead give the power to special military prosecutors, she was disappointed.

"What they are saying is I'm good enough to serve my country, I'm good enough to put my life on the line for my country, but I'm not entitled to the same justice as the rest of the population," said Beck.

In Illinois, there is an ongoing, statewide push to educate medical personnel, military members, and those in the criminal justice system about military sexual trauma.

"Our ultimate goal is really just to make a community where survivors feel comfortable disclosing. This has been an issue that has been hidden for a long time," said Zachary Hunsinger, Health & Disability Advocates.

And that is one reason Beck is willing to speak out, saying this legal fight is not over.

"I feel now is the time that military members that have been sexually assaulted need to band together and we need to fight this decision," said Beck.

The military's top brass opposed this bill, saying commanding officers must be allowed to police the rank-and-file. And Thursday's vote is not the last word. Senators vowed to bring the issue back up in the spring.

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