Military Personnel Who Report Sexual Assaults Undergo Retaliation
WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) — A report by Human Rights Watch found that U.S. military service members who report sexual assaults frequently experience retaliation, including discharge and criminal charges.
The “Embattled: Retaliation against Sexual Assault Survivors in the U.S. Military” report found that male and female military personnel who reported sexual assault are 12 times more likely to experience some form of retaliation when compared to the chances of their attacker being convicted of a sexual offense.
About 62 percent of people who report sexual assault said they experienced retaliation, according to the Department of Defense.
“Retaliation against survivors ranges from threats, vandalism, and harassment to poor work assignments, loss of promotion opportunities, disciplinary action including discharge, and even criminal charges,” according to Human Rights Watch.
The Military Whistleblower Protection Act was enacted in 1988, with recent revisions in 2013, intended to protect service members from employment-based retaliation, but the act “has yet to help a single service member whose career was harmed, despite the prevalence of the problem,” according to Human Rights Watch.
“Despite extensive reforms by the Defense Department to address sexual assault, the military has done little to hold retaliators to account or provide effective remedies for retaliation,” Human Rights Watch wrote.
The organization urges Congress to strengthen the law to give service members the same level of protection civilians receive.
“The U.S. military’s progress in getting people to report sexual assaults isn’t going to continue as long as retaliation for making a report goes unpunished,” Sara Darehshori, senior U.S. counsel at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report, said. “Ending retaliation is critical to addressing the problem of sexual assault in the military.”
In its investigation, Human Rights Watch partnered with the Protect Our Defenders organization to conduct more than 250 in-person and telephone interviews, including more than 150 interviews of service members who were sexual assault victims.
One former soldier recounted his experience after he reported a sexual assault by a male soldier from a different platoon in 2012.
“A certain Sergeant in my platoon had told me he would kill me if we ever went to Afghanistan because ‘friendly fire is a tragic accident that happens,'” the soldier said. “After I had been there for a year, someone tried to knife me in a bar and kept screaming ‘DIE F[expletive], DIE’ and that was when I told my Captain that I wanted a discharge before I ended up dead on the evening news which would be bad for him too.”