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Sexual Assault in the Military: Discrimination and Discharge

October 10, 2017 By Jeff King

According to the most recent Pentagon estimate, the number of sexual assaults taking place in the United States military declined in 2016, to 14,900 versus 20,300 in 2014. Both figures were below the estimated 2012 level of 26,000 sexual assaults.

 

Reports of Sexual Assault Up

 

The number of reported sexual assaults increased slightly during 2016, however, to 6,172 versus the 6,083 reported in 2015. The larger reported figure was hailed by the Department of Defense as evidence of greater awareness of the problem, and proof that the system in place for personnel to report sexual assaults is working better than in past years.

 

There is some evidence to support this. It is estimated that 33% of military personnel who were sexually assaulted reported it in 2016, versus just 25% who did in 2014. The figure is a large jump from 2012, when only 10% of those who had experienced sexual assault in the military reported it.

 

A Climate of Backlash?

 

Yet one-third of those who have reporting sexual assault in the military believe that they have been retaliated against for bringing a complaint.

 

The retaliation takes several forms. One is professional, in which a complainant’s official record receives citations for personnel difficulty. According to a Frontline report on PBS, sexual assault victims are often tagged with “borderline personality disorder” in their official file.

 

Other complainants have suffered retaliatory duty, such as garbage detail that begins shortly after a sexual assault or harassment charge is filed.

 

But a second is social, in which military personnel who complained of sexual assault or harassment are ostracized from their unit or harassed in informal settings by colleagues or by people unknown to them. Reports have mentioned every form of social intimidation, from bar fights to social media tags.

 

Both can have significant and long-lasting effects. If military personnel who report a sexual assault ultimately receive a less than honorable discharge, it can affect their health and disability benefits, as well as their right to receive healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It can also affect burial rights.

 

A discharge below honorable can also have repercussions on employment, child custody cases, and other areas of life.

 

People who have been sexually assaulted often develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

While those who believe they are being retaliated against do have recourse through the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, the burden of proof is very high.

 

A New Congressional Bill on Military Sexual Harassment

 

This summer, the Protecting Military Honor Act was introduced in Congress. It is designed to help prevent sexual assault victims in the military from experiencing wrongful discharge. It will also help veterans correct records that are improper.

 

The bill will strengthen legal protections against retaliation for reporting sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.

 

An Experienced Military Defense Lawyer in Texas

 

If you or someone you love has faced retaliation for bringing a sexual harassment complaint against military personnel, it’s important to consult an experienced military defense lawyer.

 

Military defense attorney Jeff King can help you understand your rights in relation to the law. Formerly a Marine judge advocate, he will leverage years of training, experience, and skill to fight tenaciously for justice and to make sure your rights are respected. Call 469-399-7001 to arrange a free case review today.

 

Additional Resources on Military Retaliation Against Sexual Assault Victims:

  1. Childress, Sarah. “How the Military Retaliates Against Sexual Assault Victims.” Frontline. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). May 18, 2015. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/how-the-military-retaliates-against-sexual-assault-victims/
  2. Human Rights Watch. “US: Bill to Assist Military Sexual Assault Victims.” July 12, 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/12/us-bill-assist-military-sexual-assault-victims
  3. Martinez, Luis. “Military Sexual Assaults Down, Reporting of Incidents Up, Survey Finds.” ABC News. May 1, 2017. http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/military-sexual-assaults-reporting-incidents-report-finds/story?id=47142882
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