MST and it's effects on Service members and Veterans
Nearly one in four U.S. servicewomen reports being sexually assaulted in the military. Of those who report, 64% said they were retaliated against for reporting. For decades, sexual assault and harassment have festered through the ranks of the armed forces, with military leaders repeatedly promising reform and then failing to live up to those promises.
Women remain a distinct minority, making up only 16.5 percent of the armed services, yet nearly one in four servicewomen reports experiencing sexual assault in the military, and more than half report experiencing harassment, according to a meta-analysis of 69 studies published in 2018 in the journal Trauma, Violence & Abuse. (Men are victims of assault and harassment, too, though at significantly lower rates than women.)
After their attacks, victims also rarely see justice. Of the more than 6,200 sexual assault reports made by United States service members in fiscal year 2020, only 50 — 0.8 percent — ended in sex-offense convictions under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, roughly one-third as many convictions as in 2019.
From 2009 to 2015, more than 22 percent of service members who left the military after reporting a sexual assault received a less-than-fully-honorable discharge, according to a 2016 investigation by the Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General. That’s nearly one and a half times more than the percentage of overall service members who received less-than-fully-honorable discharges from 2002 to 2013, according to data compiled in a March 2016 report by Swords to Plowshares, a veterans advocacy group.m And this is not a new issue.
Following the murder of Specialist Vanessa Guillén in 2020, whole sectors of society have become far more aware of the issue of sexual abuse, harassment, and other misconduct within the U.S. Armed Forces.
Congress has taken action by passing multiple bills to deal with sexual assault. The U.S. military has changed the way in which sexual assault cases are processed. The White House has made sexual harassment a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).
To almost everyone, Guillén’s murder was a shocking event, one that stunned civilians and military personnel alike. However, this was not an isolated event, nor was it the first of its kind to strike the military and shock the public. Shadow McClaine was murdered by a fellow soldier at Ft. Campbell, KY, in 2016. Often, the victims have been blamed for their own assaults and murders.
Sadly, the issue of sexual assault and harassment within the military is one that has been building over time and has been a known and serious problem since at least 1985.
It has been spoken of quietly since women began serving during the Revolutionary War.
The care provided to those assaulted in service or the VA continues to be uneven. We Advocate the creation of a distinct, permanent occupational field for Sexual Assault Prevention and assistance personnel. It is a critical step toward continuity, clarity, and consistency across all elements of emergency care, reporting, ongoing medical, mental health, and legal aid for survivors.
We are committed at the Military & Veteran Women’s Coalition to addressing this epidemic and ending sexual assault and the retaliation that our Service Members are experiencing after reporting these crimes. Stand with us to address this serious issue and make your voice heard.
Resource Sites and orgs supplemented from W0menVetsUSA
Combat Sexual Assault
In Their Honor
In Their Honor, LLC
Minority Veterans of America
Modern Military Association of America
National Women’s Law Center (NWLC)
Protect Our Defenders (POD)
Red Feather Ranch
Shield of Sisters
Service Women’s Action Network (S.W.A.N.)
Service: Women Who Serve
Veterans Legislative Voice