Tags: War on Terrorism | rape | military | victims | retaliation

Report: Military Sex Assault Victims Fear Revenge for Reporting

By    |   Monday, 18 May 2015 02:57 PM

Military personnel who have been sexually assaulted are 12 times more likely to face retaliation that can range from insults to death threats than they are to see their assailants convicted and punished for the crimes, says a Human Rights Watch report.

The report was based on interviews with 150 people who had been sexually assaulted and a review of military documents, USA Today reports, and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, who leads the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention and response program, confirmed that retaliation is a "significant issue for victims."

Snow told USA Today that the military is developing a strategy to deal with the matter, while troops interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported several degrees of retaliation, including:
  • A Marine who said her car was vandalized last year after she filed a report about sexual assault that ended with her attackers being punished over alcohol violations. She told the survey that her picture was posted on Facebook with insults and got comments including to silence her before "she lied about another rape." She said she stopped eating at her base dining hall out of fear.
  •  A member of the Air Force who said she was told "you got what you deserved" after reporting a rape, and said her colleagues were angry because she "ruined" her attacker's career.
Senior Airman Ciera Bridges, 26, told Human Rights Watch that she was harassed on arriving at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada in 2010, where her superiors made inappropriate comments about her figure. Eventually, she says, she was groped and assaulted, and she says that after reporting the attack she was transferred and demoted, along with being threatened with a dishonorable discharge.

Her lawyers got her an honorable discharge last year, and the Veterans Affairs Department found she suffered post-traumatic stress syndrome from her ordeal.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon reported that 62 percent of troops that reported sexual assaults in 2014 said they'd faced retribution. However, since 2012, the Pentagon inspector general has closed two cases without substantiating the charges and has three open cases.

"The first thing in addressing any issue is to acknowledge you have got a problem," Snow told USA Today. "Clearly we have done that and have taken steps. And we'll stay after it."

However, last year alone, there were 20,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from groping to rape, which is down 27 percent from 2012.

"Retaliation doesn't encourage people to report," said Don Christensen, president of the advocacy group Protect our Defenders. "Over and over we hear from survivors the retaliation was the worst part. They wish they hadn't come forward."

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Armed Services Committee, has fought to have prosecutors, not commanders, prosecute sex crimes, a change the Pentagon has resisted.

"These sickening stories of retaliation against survivors should make every American angry," Gillibrand said. "We keep hearing how previous reforms were going to protect victims and make retaliation a crime. Yet there has been zero progress on this front, and this mission is failing, especially considering that 62 percent of female service members report experiencing retaliation after they reported a sexual assault, and this figure has not changed in years."

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has set a Sept. 1 deadline for a strategy for dealing with the retaliation issue.

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Military personnel who have been sexually assaulted are 12 times more likely to face retaliation that can range anywhere from insults to death threats than they are to see their assailants convicted and punished for the crimes, a Human Rights Watch report.
rape, military, victims, retaliation
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2015-57-18
Monday, 18 May 2015 02:57 PM
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