By Human Rights Watch
Thousands of United States service members who lost their military careers after reporting a sexual assault live with stigmatizing discharge papers that prevent them from getting jobs and benefits, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report is the result of a 28-month investigation by Human Rights Watch, with the support of Protect Our Defenders, a human rights organization that supports and advocates for survivors of military sexual assault. Under pressure from the public and Congress, the US military has in recent years implemented some protection for service members who report sexual assault, but nothing has been done to redress the wrongs done to those who were unfairly discharged.
The 124-page report, “Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors,” found that many rape victims suffering from trauma were unfairly discharged for a “personality disorder” or other mental health condition that makes them ineligible for benefits. Others were given “Other Than Honorable” discharges for misconduct related to the assault that shut them out of the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system and a broad range of educational and financial assistance. The consequences of having “bad paper” – any discharge other than “honorable” – or being labeled as having a “personality disorder” are far-reaching for veterans and their families, impacting employment, child custody, health care, disability payments, burial rights – virtually all aspects of life.
“Military rape victims with bad discharges are essentially labeled for life,” said Sara Darehshori, senior counsel…