Justice for Women Veterans
Justice for Women Veterans
September 11, 2011
Women in the military who are sexually assaulted or harassed face obstacles not seen in the civilian workplace. They can’t decide to take time off or quit, often have no way to avoid a predatory colleague or supervisor, and certainly in combat zones, no way to visit the human resources department. They often work in a culture that has long tolerated misogynistic behavior. And they can be further traumatized by the indifference or hostility of the bureaucracy that is supposed to help them.
Servicewomen and veterans say they often struggle unsuccessfully to obtain health care and benefits related to sexual violence they endured while in uniform. The Service Women’s Action Network, an advocacy group, last year sued the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs under the Freedom of Information Act for documentation on their handling of sexual assaults. The group says the V.A.’s own data bears out the charge of unfair treatment. While the Veterans Benefits Administration approves 53 percent of all claims related to post-traumatic stress disorder, it accepts far fewer claims — only 32 percent — when the P.T.S.D. is related to sexual trauma.
Other national veterans’ groups are also urging the V.A. to make it easier for survivors of sexual trauma to qualify for benefits. Last year, the V.A. enacted this reform for veterans with P.T.S.D. related to combat: It lifted the difficult requirements for documenting specifically when and where a P.T.S.D.-linked trauma occurred, bending the benefit of the doubt in the veteran’s favor.
Continue reading at the New York Times.
Yesterday, the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) published the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military. The 622 page report details sexual assaults from each branch of the service for fiscal year 2010. The numbers indicate that cases of rape and sexual assault have not decreased, and that the military is no closer to ending this crisis in the ranks.
In FY2010, there were 3,158 total reports of sexual assault in the military. The DOD estimates that this number only represents 13.5% of total assaults in 2010, making the total number of military rapes and sexual assaults in excess of 19,000 for FY 2010.
‘This latest report clearly shows that the military’s response to rape and sexual assault within its own ranks has been both inadequate and ineffective,’ said Anu Bhagwati, former Marine Corps captain and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network. ‘This crime continues to see massive amounts of under-reporting because victims do not feel the climate is safe to report, and perpetrators are not being brought to trial in sufficient numbers.’
The SAPRO Annual Report shows that of the 3,158 reports made in FY2010, only 529 went to trial.