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The following is an archived video story. The text content of that video story is available below for reference. The original video has been deleted and is no longer available.

Major Hurdle Cleared for Victims of Sexual Assault in the Military

UNDATED -- A major hurdle cleared for sexual assault victims in the military.

Congress passed a bill that would give victims rights and protection they never had before.

The push came after the tragic murder of local marine Maria Lauterbach and her unborn son.

Maria's mother, Mary, was thrilled when she heard the news that the bill had passed the Senate late Thursday night.

Now, she's hoping it'll give sexual assault victims not only protection, but the confidence to come forward.

Mary sat before a committee just months after her daughter, Maria and her unborn child, were found murdered after accusing a fellow marine of rape.

"I believe that maria would be alive today if the marines had provided a more effective system to protect the victims of sexual assault," said Mary before a committee in 2008.

And now, a day after the sixth anniversary of when her daughter went missing, a victory.

"I couldn't be more thrilled, it's a series of very significant policy changes that will make it much easier for women to come forward," said Mary.

Congress approved a bill that would give military sexual assault victims legal counsel, and criminalize retaliation against any victim.

"If Maria had had this, she would be alive today, it's very important," Mary said.

Maria and her unborn baby were murdered in December 2007, by Cesar Laurean, the man Maria says raped her while she was at Camp Lejune.

Her burned and beaten body was later found buried in Laurean's backyard.

"There is a satisfaction that a meaning has come out of the tragedy," said Mary.

A tragedy that's shed light on an estimated 26-thousand sexual assaults in the military in the past year, with only 36-hundred reported.

Mary hopes the number of reported cases, however, grows.

"More reports is a good thing because more people feel protected enough to come forward," she said.

A protection Mary plans to keep on fighting for.

"As long as I can help," she said, "I am happy to help in any way I can."

The bill now heads to President Barack Obama for his signature.

 
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