Rape Victims Say Military Labels Them ‘Crazy’
Stephanie Schroeder joined the U.S. Marine Corps not long after 9/11. She was a 21-year-old with an associate’s degree when she reported for boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do,” Schroeder recalls.
A year and a half later, the Marines diagnosed her with a personality disorder and deemed her psychologically unfit for the Corps.
Anna Moore enlisted in the Army after 9/11 and planned to make a career of it. Moore was a Patriot missile battery operator in Germany when she was diagnosed with a personality disorder and dismissed from the Army.
Jenny McClendon was serving as a sonar operator on a Navy destroyer when she received her personality disorder diagnosis.
These women joined different branches of the military but they share a common experience:
Each received the psychiatric diagnosis and military discharge after reporting a sexual assault.
“I’m not crazy,” says Schroeder, who is married now, with two daughters. “I am actually relatively normal.”
McClendon says she had a similar reaction.
“I remember thinking this is absurd; this is ridiculous. How could I be emotionally unstable? I’m very clear of mind, especially considering what had happened.” McClendon says. “It was a ludicrous diagnosis.”
A similar pattern
CNN has interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, who tell stories that follow a similar pattern — a sexual assault, a command dismissive of the allegations and a psychiatric discharge.
Schroeder says a fellow Marine followed her to the bathroom in April 2002. She says he then punched her, ripped off her pants and raped her. When she reported what happened, a non-commissioned officer dismissed the allegation, saying, “‘Don’t come bitching to me because you had sex and changed your mind,’” Schroeder recalls.
Moore says she was alone in her barracks in October 2002 when a non-commissioned officer from another battery tried to rape her. When she filled out forms to report it, she says, her first sergeant, told her: “Forget about it. It never happened,” and tore up the paperwork.
“It felt like a punch in the gut,” Moore says. “I couldn’t trust my chain of command to ever back me up.”
McClendon says she was aboard a Navy destroyer at sea when a superior raped her on the midnight to 2 a.m. watch. After reporting the attack, she was diagnosed with a personality disorder and deemed unfit to serve.
“I was good enough to suit up and show up and serve, but I wasn’t good enough after the fact,” McClendon says.
Despite the Defense Department’s “zero tolerance” policy, there were 3,191 military sexual assaults reported in 2011. Given that most sexual assaults are not reported, the Pentagon estimates the actual number was probably closer to 19,000.
“The number of sexual assaults in the military is unacceptable,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a news conference in January. “Our men and women in uniform put their lives on the line every day to keep America safe. We have a moral duty to keep them safe from those who would attack their dignity and their honor.”