House Defense Appropriation Contains Hope for Victims of Rape

May 27th, 2011 - by admin

Service Women’s Action Network & Dr. Katherine Scheirman / ACLU Blog – 2011-05-27 02:22:50

House Passes Defense Authorization Act, Includes Provisions To Help Prevent And Eliminate Military Sexual Assault
Service Women’s Action Network

NEW YORK, NY — Today, Service Women’s Action Network praised the US House of Representatives’ passage of H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that funds the US military for 2012. If signed into law, the bill would provide unprecedented protections for survivors of military rape and sexual assault. Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps Captain and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network — a national human rights organization founded and led by women veterans — called the bill’s passage an “historic step” towards preventing and eliminating sexual assault in the military.

“Today’s historic vote is yet another positive step forward in the prevention and elimination of what continues to be a crisis in the military,” said Bhagwati. “Last year the Department of Defense estimated that over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the ranks. That is a staggering 52 assaults a day that are happening to both men and women serving overseas and at bases here at home.”

The provisions in the NDAA include measures that would ensure confidentiality between victims and victim advocates, access to appropriate legal services for victims and expedited consideration for transfers by victims under humanitarian guidelines. The bill would also replace the current head of the DOD’s sexual assault response department with a General officer.

“Being assaulted is terrible no matter what the circumstance,” Bhagwati said. “But being in uniform makes it especially difficult for survivors. In the military you cannot quit your job, so you are forced to work with and deploy overseas with your assailant. You cannot move to another town, so you are forced to live in the same community as your assailant — eat near him, shop near him, see him at the gym. This forced co-location causes the victim to be traumatized again and again. These legislative provisions would prevent this from happening.”

The FY 2012 Defense Authorization Bill will now move on to the Senate where last year the sexual assault provisions that passed the House were stripped from the bill prior to the vote. Through the entire legislative process, SWAN will continue advocating to lawmakers regarding the need for these crucial provisions to remain part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Anu Bhagwati is SWAN’s Executive Director and a former Marine Corps Captain.

QUICK FACTS: Rape, Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Military
Brittany L. Stalsburg / Service Women’s Action Network

(April 2011) — Author’s Note: The phrase Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is the official term for the psychological trauma that may result from military rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. SWAN considers the term a euphemism and prefers to call these crimes and violations what they are—rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. The term “MST” masks the severity of this crisis, and it is important to properly name these egregious acts committed against our men and women in uniform.

There is no end in sight to sexual violence in the US military. Despite over 25 years of Pentagon studies, task force recommendations and congressional hearings, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment continue to occur at alarming rates year after year. In addition to the devastating effects of sexual violence on survivors and their families, rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment threaten the strength, readiness and morale of the US military, thus effectively undermining US national security.

* 3,158 military sexual assaults were reported in fiscal year 2010, a decrease of 2% from fiscal year 2009. Only about a quarter of these sexual assaults occurred during deployment to a combat zone.1

* While sexual assaults are notoriously under-reported, this problem is exacerbated in military settings. The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that only 13.5% of survivors report the assault,2 and that in 2010 alone, over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military.

* Approximately 55% of women and 38% of men report that their assailant sexually harassed or stalked them prior to the incident of rape or sexual assault.3

* Prosecution rates for perpetrators of rape and sexual assault are astoundingly low—in 2010, less than 21% of reported cases went to trial.4

* The Department of Defense does not maintain a military sex offender registry that can alert servicemembers, unit commanders, communities and civilian law enforcement to the presence and movement of military sexual predators.

* Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment are the primary causal factors of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for women, whereas combat experience is the strongest predictor of PTSD for men.5
* Rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and their attendant consequences are often risk factors for homelessness among women veterans. 40% of homeless women veterans have reported experiences of sexual assault in the military.6

* Stress, depression and other mental health issues associated with surviving rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment make it more likely that survivors will experience high rates of substance abuse and will have difficulty finding work after discharge from the military.7

* Rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors who have used Veterans Health Administration (VHA)8 services report experiencing a “second victimization” while under care, often reporting increased rates of depression and PTSD.9

* Female rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors who have used VHA services reported a lower quality of care and dissatisfaction with VHA services compared to women using outside care.10

* While women and men both face enormous barriers to receiving VA disability compensation for MST-related PTSD, evidence indicates that men receive higher compensation ratings than women.11

THE COSTS OF MILITARY RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT * In 2010, the VHA treated 68,379 patients in connection with MST. 61% of survivors were women.12 This means that 39%

(26,904) of patients being treated for conditions associated with MST in 2010 were men.13

* The Veterans Administration (VA)14 spends approximately $10,880 on healthcare costs per military sexual assault survivor. Adjusting for inflation, this means that in 2010 alone, the VA spent almost $872 million dollars on sexual assault-related healthcare expenditures.15

* The Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that legal expenses that result from military sexual assault cases average $40,000 per case. With 481 sexual assault-related courts-martial in 2010, DOD legal expenses totaled more than $19 million dollars.16

* SWAN is spearheading a national movement to end rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military using litigation, legislative remedies, media advocacy and public education.

* Through our National Peer Support Helpline, SWAN provides confidential peer support, legal referrals and counseling referrals to both servicewomen and servicemen, veterans and family members of survivors of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.

For more information, please contact Brittany Stalsburg by e-mail at info or call (212) 683-0015 x324

1 Department of Defense, SAPRO. 2011. “Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military.” Available:; Department of Defense, DMDC. 2011. “2010 Workplace and Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members.” Available:

2 Department of Defense. SAPRO, 2011.

3 Department of Defense, DMDC, 2011.

4 Department of Defense, SAPRO. 2011. Note that of 2,554 alleged perpetrators of rape or sexual assault in 2010, only 529 were preferred to courts-martial. In these cases, charges are submitted to a convening authority who ascertains whether or not the case goes to trial. Thus, not all 529 alleged perpetrators were necessarily prosecuted.

5 Street et al. 2008. “Sexual harassment and assault experienced by reservists during military service: Prevalence and health correlates.” Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development 45: 409-420; Kang et al. 2005. “The role of sexual assault on the risk of PTSD among Gulf War veterans.” Annals of Epidemiology 15(3):191-195.

6 Vanessa Williamson and Erin Mulhall. 2009. “Invisible Wounds: Psychological and Neurological Injuries Confront a New Generation of Veterans.” New York: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

7 Skinner et al. 2000. “The Prevalence of Military Sexual Assault Among Female Veterans’ Administration Outpatients.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 15 (3):291-310.

8 The VHA includes VA Medical Centers.

9 Rebecca Campbell and Sheela Raja. 2005. “The Sexual Assault and Secondary Victimization of Female Veterans: Help-Seeking Experiences with Military and Civilian Social Systems.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 29 (1): 97-106.

10 Kelly et al. 2008. “Effects of Military Trauma Exposure on Women Veterans’ Use and Perceptions of Veterans Health Administration Care.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 23 (6):741- 747.

11 In conjunction with the ACLU, SWAN filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain data concerning gender differences in compensation awarded for MST-related PTSD claims. Based on data analyzed for fiscal years 2008-2010, men are more likely than women to receive 70% and 100% ratings for MST-related PTSD claims (p<.001). See also Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. 2010 “Review of Combat Stress in Women Veterans Receiving VA Health Care and Disability Benefits.” Washington, D.C.: Office of Inspector General. 12 Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General. 2010. “Review of Inappropriate Copayment Billing for Treatment Related to Military Sexual Trauma.” 13 Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health Services. 2011. “Summary of Military Sexual Trauma-related Outpatient Care Report, FY 2010.” Washington, D.C.: Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Mental Health Services. 14 The VA includes the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA). 15 Suris et al. 2004. “Sexual Assault in Women Veterans: An Examination of PTSD Risk, Health Care Utilization, and Cost of Care.” Psychosomatic Medicine 66: 749-756. 16 Department of Defense, SAPRO. 2010; 2011. Although 529 sexual assault cases were preferred for courts-martial in 2010, only 481 received a case disposition during this year. SWAN’s vision is to transform military culture by securing equal opportunity and the freedom to serve in uniform without threat of harassment, discrimination, intimidation or assault. SWAN also seeks to reform veterans’ services on a national scale to guarantee equal access to quality health care, benefits and resources for women veterans and their families. You can find the Service Women’s Action Network on The Web, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Service Women’s Action Network, PO Box 1758, New York, New York 10156-1758

Military Women Deserve First Class Treatment Not Second-Class Status
Dr. Katherine Scheirman / ACLU Blog

Dr. Katherine Scheirman served as an officer in the United States Air Force as a physician for 20 years. As Chief, Medical Operations Division for the Headquarters, United States Air Forces in Europe (HQ USAFE) her assignments included oversight of the quality of care provided at Air Force hospitals and clinics in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, and Turkey. Dr. Scheirman retired as a colonel in 2006.

WASHINGTON (May 26, 2011) — I was deeply disappointed to learn that on May 24, the leadership of the US House of Representatives shut down debate on an amendment that would have provided abortion services to military women who become pregnant as a result of rape.

Under current law, the Department of Defense is barred from providing coverage for abortion except where the pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Unlike other federal bans on abortion coverage, the military ban provides no exception for cases of rape or incest. The current policy is shameful. Our military women, who serve and sacrifice for their country, should not have worse health care benefits than civilians who rely on the government for their insurance coverage.

As Chief of Medical Operations at the Air Force’s European Headquarters, I was significantly involved in the initial development of the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention program (SAPRO) for our bases throughout Europe. Improvements in the area of prevention and reporting of assaults, and in the provision of emergency contraception, are commendable. However, military sexual assaults remain unacceptably high.

While the Department of Defense maintains a zero tolerance policy on sexual assault, this crime has reached crisis level in the military. It is estimated that one in three women are sexually assaulted during their military service. This figure is especially staggering when taken into account with under-reporting of sexual assault. The climate of fear and intimidation leading to under-reporting remains an intractable problem, with the FY2010 SAPRO report estimating that only 14 percent of victims of sexual assault report this crime.

This report also shows that the vast majority of victims are female, 25 or younger, and from the junior enlisted ranks. These young women usually serve far from home, with no close family and friend support systems to help them through such a traumatic experience. When a servicewoman is raped, becomes pregnant, and chooses to end the pregnancy caused by an act of violence, she should not have to scramble to find the funds to pay for the care she needs. She should have access to the same medical benefits that other women insured by our government already have.

I stand with Service Women’s Action Network, the ACLU, and many other organizations working to protect the women who have dedicated their lives to protecting us, by supporting the Davis-Andrews-DeGette-Maloney-Sanchez-Slaughter Amendment. If passed it would have repealed the current ban on coverage for abortion care for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

Our military women, and the wives and daughters of active duty troops, deserve more comprehensive reproductive health care than the current policy provides. They have demonstrated their commitment to the country they are willing to die to protect. Congress should demonstrate its commitment to their service and sacrifice.

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