Oklahoma Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin is among dozens of co-sponsors of a bill to change how the military handles reports of sexual assault and harassment.
The I Am Vanessa Guillén Act is named for the 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier prosecutors say another soldier murdered and dismembered in April. Her family said she told them she was being sexually harassed by a sergeant but was nervous about filing a complaint.
"But in her death, she’s going to serve her brothers and sisters in arms for years to come and protect those other men and women that may have didn’t have a voice beforehand and now have a real place to go," Mullin said.
Many other service members have expressed concerns about how the military's current system might negatively affect their careers if they report sexual harassment.
The bill would keep military prosecutions within the Department of Defense.
"But it takes it out of the chain of command. The most important thing about this bill is that we take it out of them investigating themselves. We put special prosecutors that are trained in this and they’ll report directly to the [Deputy Secretary of Defense]," Mullin said.
The bill would also make sexual harassment a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Mullin and other sponsors of Rep. Jackie Speier’s (D-California) bill hope it comes up for a vote this year.