By Debbie Gregory.
Military sexual assault survivors are still experiencing retaliation for reporting sexual assaults, this according to a report issued by Human Rights Watch. The international organization focuses on defending human rights around the world.
Victims who report military sexual assault are 12 times more likely to experience retaliation than to see their attacker convicted of a sex crime, according to the report.
Many survivors suffered bullying and isolation. Many experienced damage to their careers, such as being subjected to poor performance evaluations, punishments for petty infractions, assignments to demeaning jobs such as picking up garbage. What’s worse is that in many cases, the attacks never stop.
The report, entitled “Embattled: Retaliation against Sexual Assault Survivors in the U.S. Military,” found that retaliation had an effect on a victim’s willingness to come forward to report the assault. Furthermore, the report found that ending retaliation plays a critical role in addressing the problem of sexual assault in the military.
The statistics are staggering; the Pentagon’s latest report on sexual assault found there were about 18,900 sexual assaults in the military last year, of which only 6,131 were reported.
Troops who suffer sexual assault have complications civilian survivors do not. Service members commit to the military for several years and cannot simply quit their jobs to get away from their perpetrators or co-workers who harass them. And because troops pride themselves on looking out for one another, the trauma that comes from a sexual assault is compounded, the report said.
Among the report’s recommendations are:
- Congress strengthening the Military Whistleblower Protection Act to give servicemembers the same level of protection as civilians.
- Expanding initiatives like the Special Victims Counsel program, to reward those who take retaliation seriously and hold accountable those who do not.
- Congress establishing a ban on criminal charges or disciplinary action against victims for minor collateral misconduct that would not have come to light if the victim had not reported a sexual assault.
- Improving outreach to make military sexual assault survivors aware of special victim counsels and victims’ legal counsel.
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Military Connection: Mil Sexual Assault Victims Face Retaliation: by Debbie Gregory