Legislature OK's bill to help female veterans who were sexually abused
By MARK MUCKENFUSS / STAFF WRITER
State Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, is hoping Gov. Jerry Brown will sign a bill he authored calling for affordable veterans housing specifically for women. The goal, he said, is to provide an environment where female veterans who have suffered sexual trauma feel safer.
The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly without any opposition and was sent to the governor on Thursday, Aug. 11.
Roth, who sits on the Senate’s Veterans Affairs Committee, was a co-author of Prop. 41 in 2014, which provided money for affordable housing for low-income and homeless veterans. Since then, Roth said, statistics showing that one in four women in the military report experiencing sexual assault, have troubled him. Those women, he said, may feel intimidated in a housing situation where they are surrounded by male veterans.
Roth said the bill was necessary because contractors bidding for such projects may have had concerns about gender discrimination.
“You can’t make decisions on gender unless there is a compelling state interest,” Roth said.
The bill, he said, makes that compelling interest clear.
“We need to protect those who sacrificed to protect us, particularly these female vets that have suffered sexual trauma,” he said.
Crystal Presbury, a counselor at the Corona Veterans Center who helps women veterans dealing with sexual trauma, said she’s impressed by the idea of female-only housing.
“I think it’s genius,” Presbury said. “I believe (traumatized women) could sleep at night. I believe the situation and the environment would alleviate a lot of the active symptoms.”
Roth said he’s hoping the strong support in the legislature will help spur Gov. Brown to sign the bill.
“Let’s just hope I have better luck with this bill than I’ve had with some others,” he said.
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