President Obama Signs Military Anti-Sexual Assault Bill

On Thursday, President Obama signed a bill pushing back on the ever-growing numbers of rape and assault victims in America's armed forces.

Under the new defense bill, military commanders can no longer overturn jury convictions for sexual assault, reports The Associated Press, and that's not all.

It also requires a civilian review if a commander declines to prosecute a case and requires that any individual convicted of sexual assault face a dishonorable discharge or dismissal.

Defense officials beat back efforts to more drastically revamp the military justice system that would take authority away from commanders and allow victims of rape and sexual assault to go outside the chain of command for prosecutions.

In 2013, the reported number of assaults in the military increased by 50 percent. This might be because more victims felt comfortable coming forward, a good thing because more stories were shared and more soldiers were able to recognize sexual assault and harassment in action. That wasn't the case before, when many victims felt they would receive negative treatment from their ranking officers and co-workers if they reported their own, or someone else's, abuse.

Still, the military has much more work to do in cleaning up its ranks. Programs like "If you see something, say something" have been instituted for soldiers and some branches have restricted alcohol sales to prevent sexual assault and harassment. Others have also publicized the court martials of those charged with sexual assault so their peers can see the results of their actions.

"We're still not where we want things to be," said Col. Alan R. Metzler, deputy director of the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention and response office. "But we think all of this is having an effect."

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