US military members who report sexual assault often face retaliation, report finds

Report shows that much work remains to fix sexual assault in US military

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The Independent US

Members of the US military who report sexual assault often face retaliation that goes unpunished, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

The US Defence Department has launched extensive reforms in recent years to address sexual assault within the military, but the new report shows that much work remains to solve the problem.

Human Rights Watch found that both male and female military members who report sexual assault are 12 times more likely to experience retaliation than to see a conviction of their alleged attacker.

The retaliation reported by military members included threats, vandalism, harassment, poor work assignments, loss of promotion opportunities, disciplinary action and criminal charges, according to Human Rights Watch.

“The US military’s progress in getting people to report sexual assaults isn’t going to continue as long as retaliation for making a report goes unpunished,” said Sara Darehshori, senior US counsel at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. “Ending retaliation is critical to addressing the problem of sexual assault in the military.”

A survey from the Defence Department shows that 62 per cent of those who reported sexual assault say they faced retaliation, the report says.

“When no one is held accountable for retaliation, it creates a hostile environment for all survivors, and sends a message to criminals that they can act with impunity” said Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders and former chief prosecutor of the US Air Force. “When a survivor who reports sexual assault is 12 times more likely to suffer retaliation than they are to see their rapist convicted, it demonstrates the military has a long way to go in fixing this problem.”

The Defence Department did not return calls and emails seeking comment on the report.


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