Sexual Assault in the Military: Servicewomen Taking a Stand

woman in military uniformThe Washington D.C. law firm Burke PLLC is preparing to file a class action suit against the U.S. military for failure to properly address sexual assault and rape. Not only is a woman in the military more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire, female soldiers who report crimes committed against them are often harassed and intimidated. A Pentagon report revealed that between 2004 and 2007 “more than half of the investigations [of rape and sexual assault]…resulted in no action. When action was taken, only one third of the cases resulted in courts-martial.”

The horrendous way that the military treats sexual assault and rape survivors may be illustrated through Lt. Jennifer Dyer’s story:

In 2004, after Lt. Jennifer Dyer reported being raped by a fellow officer at Camp Shelby, Miss., she said she was held in seclusion for three days, read her Miranda rights and threatened with criminal prosecution for filing a false report. After finally being given two weeks leave, she was threatened with prosecution for being AWOL when she would not report for duty to the same location where the man she had accused — who was later acquitted on assault charges — was still posted.

Unfortunately, Dyer’s story is not an anomaly. Many women in the military are wrongly treated after having endured sexual trauma.

Over 90% of all females that report a sexual assault are discharged from the military before their contract ends. From the 90%, around 85% are discharged against their wishes. Nearly all of the 85% lose their careers based on misdiagnoses that render them ineligible for military service and ineligible for VA treatment after discharge.

When a soldier is convicted of rape, the punishment is often not fitting of someone who committed a violent crime. The military still allows convicted rapists to be buried with full honors, therein perpetuating “the culture of impunity that allows soldiers to commit sexual violence with little worry of being brought to justice.”

Soldiers who have raped other soldiers are sometimes even allowed to stay in the military. Lance Cpl. Sally Griffiths reported having been raped by a fellow Marine. A statement from the Marine confirmed her story. But even with this statement, the Marine was never prosecuted and stayed in the military, enjoying several promotions.

We have written before about the challenges and dangers that women in uniform face, including sexual assault, domestic violence, inadequate resources to address PTSD, lack of access to abortion and other reproductive healthcare, dismissal because of their sexual orientation and more. This lawsuit is one small step to correcting the many wrongs that have been committed against servicewomen.

As the firm is preparing to file a class-action suit on behalf of sexual assault survivors, they are looking for any “any victims/survivors who may be potentially interested in participating in this lawsuit.” To contact the firm, e-mail Susan Sajadi at ssajadi@burkepllc.com.

Photo from the Library of Congress’s Flickr stream

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2 Responses to Sexual Assault in the Military: Servicewomen Taking a Stand

  1. Pingback: Increasing Number of Homeless Women Veterans | Women's Law Project Blog

  2. Leon Morton says:

    This is one of the most glaring failures of justice in recent history.What about those who are not “survivors” and can women in psychiatric care participate.The criminal investigative services of the armed services are heavy-handedly corrupt,but they are not skillfully corrupt,so,you should be able to take them down.I wish you great success in your fight.

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