In uniform

Sex assault victims in military often given improper discharges for filing complaints, report says

Soldiers, officers and civilian employees attend the commencement ceremony for the U.S. Army's annual observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month in the Pentagon Center Courtyard March 31, 2015 in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sexual assault victims in the United States military have been given improper discharges as punishment for the assaults, according to allegations in a report released Thursday from Human Rights Watch. The report, based on interviews with 163 victims from all divisions of the military, found that many said they had been unfairly discharged from the military and had lost service benefits due to poor discharge records. One victim, identified by the pseudonym Shelby Willis, filed 10 complaints over the course of seven months alleging harassment from a senior airman. Willis was told she was causing problems and given extra duty on her base, she said in an interview with CNN. Eventually, she was recommended for discharge for minor disciplinary offenses, while her alleged attacker was never formally charged, she said.

“I went to the commander’s office, she acted like it was nothing. Her main problem was that I didn’t salute to her when I entered the room,” said Willis. “They gave me extra duties … a week after the assault I had to clean the men’s latrines.”

But the military strongly contested the claims in the HRW report, saying it did not know how the group came up with the calculations and did not appear to have reviewed service records. The group said it found the victims through social media, rape survivors’ groups, and lawyers. The report suggested that military service personnel should have the chance to have their discharge records formally reviewed and have discharges marked as “completion of service.”

Read the full story at CNN.

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