Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is the Pentagon Doing Enough for Sexual Assault Victims?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is the Pentagon Doing Enough for Sexual Assault Victims?

Article excerpt

When Roseanne Henderson was raped in 2007 by her Navy recruiter, she reported the incident to her superiors, hoping they would take action. Instead, she says, they told the then-18-year-old, "If we send you back on a ship this will happen again.... You'd be better off serving your country as a Navy wife."

Her discharge, however, mentioned "personality disorder," after officials claimed she was emotionally unstable after the assault, making it difficult to find employment, or proper treatment, she tells Human Rights Watch in "Booted," the organization's new report on the military's response to sexual assault.

"Booted," published Thursday, details several accounts of similar cases in which sexually assaulted victims say they were given improper discharge after reporting their assaults, including several who say their discharge papers inaccurately note 'personality disorders' and other mental health issues.

The report, which military officials have strongly contested, comes just a few weeks after the military released data showing a decline in the number of sexual assault cases. 20,000 occur each year, it estimates, but far fewer are reported: only 6,000 in 2015, for example. The decline in reporting is bad news for an organization trying to build victims' trust, as The Christian Science Monitor's Anna Mulrine reported.

"There is no indication [HRW] actually reviewed service records, discharge records, or service standards, to objectively assess whether the discharge was right or wrong," a Department of Defense spokesman told CNN, cautioning that some less than honorable discharges may have stemmed from unrelated problems, such as drug use.

The armed forces have made a growing effort to fight sexual assault, a problem that has plagued them for decades, with initiatives ranging from special counsels for victims, to "bystander intervention" approaches that encourage peers to step in and stop aggressive behavior. …

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