Washington, D.C. – Just hours before the Senate overturned a bill to prevent military sexual assault by taking prosecution powers out of the hands of the military, allegations emerged that a top sexual assault prosecutor for the Army groped a colleague. Yes, it’s ironic and absurd, and but sadly it’s true.

Stars and Stripes has confirmed that Joseph Morse, the Army’s top sexual assault prosecutor is accused of groping and trying to kiss an female attorney at a sexual-assault legal conference two years ago. An Army official told the Stars and Stripes that they have launched an investigation and Morse has been removed from his position.

Morse has not been charged, but the allegations against him come at when the military is still grappling with sexual assault among its ranks.

Morse’s suspension came a little over a week after the Army suspended 588 personnel from recruiting, sexual assault and other sensitive positions after it was discovered they had committed a range of offenses from drunken driving, child molestation and sexual assault.

Sen. Kristen Gillibrand who developed legislation to combat sexual assault mentioned the allegations against Morse in a press conference prior to the Senate’s vote on her bill.

Gillibrand’s bill would take prosecutions for sexual assault out of the hands of military prosecutors and given to independent military attorneys. The bill, which Gillibrand has been championing for the better part of a year, had majority support in the Senate, but was blocked by a filibuster. Had the bill gone up for an up or down vote it would have passed, but some members of the Senate chose to use a procedural rule to kill the bill.

“The victims and survivors of sexual assault having been walking the halls of Congress for more than a year asking us to protect them,” Gillibrand told her colleagues, according to the Huffington Post. “It’s not about whether the members of Congress trust the chain of command. The people who do not trust the chain of command are the victims.”

The military estimates that in 2013, over 22,000 military members were the victims of sexual assault, but only a small fraction, 3,374 were reported. An even smaller number of sexual assaults, 302, were prosecuted.

Victims rarely report sexual assaults because they are afraid to go to their commanders. One victim who told Gillibrand, “It’s like being raped by your brother, and your father deciding the case,” the Huffington Post reported.

That statement gets at the root of the problem and something Gillibrand hoped to solve by taking prosecutions out of the hands of military commanders. But opponents to the bill say there is no proof that taking prosecutorial power out of military commanders would lead to retaliation or increased reporting.

While Gillibrand’s bill was defeated, her opponents, which include Sen. Clair McCaskill (D.-MO.) Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), introduced a different bill they expect to get a majority vote on when it heads to the Senate floor next Thursday.
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hat bill would require the military to appoint special victims counsel to inform a victim of the course of action they can take and would rate commanders based on their response to sexual assault complaints.