1 Department of Defense Directive 6495.01 defines sexual assault as intentional sexual contact characterized by use of force, threats, intimidation, or abuse of authority or when the victim does not or cannot consent. The crime of sexual assault includes a broad category of sexual offenses consisting of the following specific Uniform Code of Military Justice offenses: rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, forcible sodomy (forced oral or anal sex), or attempts to commit these offenses.
Embattled: Human Rights Watch (link to the following report excerpts):
A note on terminology:
Many survivors’ groups, support service organizations, and others working on sexual violence strongly prefer the term “survivor” to “victim.” “Survivor” implies greater empowerment, agency, and resilience, and many individuals do not want to be labeled solely as “victims.” This is often important to their healing process and sense of identity. That said, some individuals feel “victim” better conveys their experience of having been the target of violent crime. In recognition of these differing views, this report uses both terms.
“Retaliation” is used in this report to include adverse actions taken both by peers (social retaliation) and by the chain of command (professional retaliation) against persons who have reported a criminal offense (sexual assault). The National Defense Authorization Act defines retaliation as “(a) taking or threatening to take an adverse personnel action, or withholding or threatening to withhold a favorable personnel action, with respect to a member of the Armed Forces because the member reported a criminal offense; (b) ostracism and such act of maltreatment, as designated by the Secretary of Defense, committed by peers of a member of the Armed Forces or by other persons because the member reported a criminal offense.” Professional retaliation is also referred to as a “reprisal” and is typically handled by the Inspector General. It includes a range of actions such as transfer or reassignment, disciplinary action, poor performance evaluations, and change in a work assignment inconsistent with the military member’s grade. In this report, Human Rights Watch uses the term “retaliation” for all such adverse actions, including those referred to as “reprisals.”
Military service regulations further define the terms “ostracism” and “maltreatment” referenced in (b) above as requiring “the intent to discourage someone from reporting a criminal offense or otherwise discourage the due administration of justice.” Ostracism includes insults or bullying, exclusion from social acceptance or friendship because the victim reported a crime. Maltreatment refers to treatment by peers or by others that, when viewed objectively under all the circumstances, is abusive or otherwise unnecessary for any lawful purpose and that results (or reasonably could have resulted) in physical or mental harm or suffering. Human Rights Watch used the term “ostracism” and “maltreatment” in their ordinary senses without inferring the underlying intent of the person doing the retaliation. This report examines forms of retaliation that do not necessarily align with actionable offenses that meet the elements of proof required for a charge of retaliation under military law.
There is a right to a remedy for all victims of sexual assault. Since retaliation often interferes with survivors’ ability to access a remedy, governments should take all appropriate measures to end retaliation. Recognizing the ways that retaliation can interfere with victims’ access to a remedy under human rights law, international best practices on the treatment of victims require that governments “take measures to minimize inconvenience to victims, protect their privacy, when necessary, and ensure their safety, as well as that of their families and witnesses on their behalf, from intimidation and retaliation.”
Survivors recounted suffering a range of negative actions after reporting sexual assault or harassment, both professional and social. Many considered the aftermath of the assault—bullying and isolation from peers or the damage done to their career as a result of reporting—worse than the assault itself.
Human Rights Watch has concluded that these experiences constitute harmful retaliation consistent with the definition provided in the National Defense Authorization Act. Even if some of the acts were not intended as retaliation, many occurred because the service member reported a sexual assault. In addition, the victim’s beliefs about the incident and, more importantly, their beliefs about the military’s response has a long lasting impact.
The Danielson Famile “Southern Paws” (audio)
According to a 2014 Department of Defense survey conducted by RAND Corporation, 62 percent of active service members who reported sexual assault to a military authority in the past year indicated they experienced retaliation as a result of reporting. The survey defined retaliation to include professional retaliation (such as adverse personnel action), social retaliation (ostracism or maltreatment by peers or others) and administrative action or punishments. Because only active service members participate in the survey, service members who left the military—either voluntarily or involuntarily—after reporting a sexual assault are not included, so the actual rate of retaliation may well be higher.
The military conducts workplace and gender relations surveys every two years. The 2014 RAND survey shows that reported rates of retaliation have not changed since the last workplace survey in 2012, despite aggressive efforts by the military to reform its handling of sexual assault cases, including efforts to address retaliation.
In the 2014 survey, more than half the victims who made a report (53 percent) indicated experiencing social retaliation; 32 percent reported professional retaliation; 35 percent indicated experiencing administrative action (such as a reprimand); and 11 percent reported being punished for an infraction (such as underage drinking). In a separate 2014 Defense Department Survivor Experience Survey, 40 percent of victims who made an unrestricted report of sexual assault reported experiencing professional retaliation, 59 percent experienced social retaliation, and one-third experienced both.
Many survivors we interviewed, some of whom did not initially report their assault, said they did not want to report because they had seen what happened to others. As one said, “I know how it works in the military. If you report, you are out [of the military].” One Marine who was ostracized after reporting walked in on her roommate being violently gang-raped. When she asked her roommate if she would report the assault, her roommate said that she would not report because “I don’t want to end up like you.” When a trainee turned her drill sergeant in for sexual misconduct in 2012, she experienced such intense abuse in retaliation that she later discovered his other victims made a pact never to reveal what he had done to them.
The significant strides the military has recently made in improving reporting rates will be erased if victims see that others who report experience retaliation, and that the military does not respond to it effectively.
While most survivors surveyed report experiencing retaliation, few will see their perpetrator tried and punished for a sex offense, as is true generally for these offenses in both the military and civilian contexts. According to the December 2014 Report to the President on Sexual Assault in the Military, in FY 2014, of the 3,261 cases within the Defense Department’s jurisdiction that had outcomes to report, 910 (28 percent) had sex offense charges preferred (initiating the court-martial process); 496 (15 percent) cases proceeded to trial; and 175 (5.4 percent) were convicted of a sex offense.
Thus for a victim deciding whether or not to make an unrestricted report, the risk is 12 times greater that the service member will experience retaliation as a result of their report than that the service member will see the offender (if a service member) convicted for a sex offense after a court martial.
Survivors told Human Rights Watch about the acute trauma caused by having the people who were supposed to defend their lives in battle turn on them at the very moment they most needed support. As Senior Airman Bridges, who reported sexual harassment and assault, said, “They are supposed to be your family. When sexual assault happens, you’re no longer family.”
Survivors also described situations in which the command appeared to encourage the peer alienation of the survivor. Several service members reported that their isolation was a result of instructions by commanders to their peers not to talk to them. One Marine Corps Judge Advocate General suggested that this instruction may be a mistakenly broad interpretation by junior leaders of general guidance requiring people not to talk with a victim about an ongoing investigation. Regardless of the reason why such instructions are given, the resulting isolation for the victim can be devastating.
In some cases to remove victims from a hostile work environment was a positive move for survivors. Others, however, considered the assignments to be deliberately demeaning and intended to punish them for reporting sexual violence or harassment. It may understandably be difficult for the military to find a suitable temporary position for someone in their specialty on short notice and “fill-in” duties may seem demeaning even when they are not intended to be so. However, being put in a position outside of their specialty for an extended period took some survivors off their career paths and was deeply demoralizing.
“Under the current military whistleblower regime, victims must choose between reporting an assault and keeping their career. As a 40-year military law practitioner said, if you make a complaint, even if you can prove it, “You may as well get out. Your career is dead. There is no protection for victims.”
Military Equal Opportunity
Service members do not have access to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and are unable to sue for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, the Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) program was created to combat discriminatory behavior (including sexual harassment) on the basis that discrimination is at odds with the obligation of men and women in uniform to treat all with dignity and respect; and is contrary to good order and discipline and can jeopardize mission readiness by undermining unit cohesion.
Assessment of Progress
Out of the 6,131 reports of sexual assault in FY 2014, there were 4,768 Service Member victims who made a report for an incident that occurred during military Service16, a 16% increase from FY 2013. As reflected in Figure 2, 25%, or about 1 in 4 of the estimated 18,900 Service member victims who experienced unwanted sexual contact made a Restricted or Unrestricted Report for an incident that occurred during military service. In fiscal year 2012, 11%, or about 1 in 10 of the estimated Service members who experienced the crime reported it. The estimated 25% reporting rate in fiscal year 2014 is the highest ever recorded for the Military Services.
The 2014 RAND Military Workplace Study
– Of the 4.3% of women who indicated experiencing unwanted sexual contact in the past year and who reported the matter to a military authority or organization, 62% perceived some form of professional or social retaliation, administrative action, and/or punishment associated with their report (53% social retaliation, 35% adverse administrative action, 32% professional retaliation, and 11% punishment for infraction19). However, because the data do not provide for the circumstances regarding administrative action or actions, which victims perceive as professional retaliation, we are unable to draw any conclusions regarding these numbers. Data for men were not reportable due to the small number of male respondents in this category.
For the past few years, the Pentagon has launched an extensive, public effort to combat sexual assault. It has set up a special office for victims’ advocates, commissioned reports to study the problem and stepped up training. The efforts have encouraged more victims to speak out. Reports of sexual assaults increased 41 percent from 2012 to 2014, according to Department of Defense data.
Retaliation, however, remains constant. Nearly two-thirds of service members who report sexual assault — 62 percent — say they experienced some form of social or professional retaliation from their fellow service members in 2014, according to a study conducted by military research firm RAND Corp. on behalf of the Defense Department. The number hasn’t changed since at least 2012, the last time the question was asked.
The Department of Defense data only tells part of the story. The above Human Rights Watch report interviewed more than 150 service members who said that they have been sexually assaulted. Many of those interviewed said that they had been harassed, physically attacked or threatened by their peers for reporting. Professionally, some service members said they were stripped of their ranks, assigned to menial tasks and even pushed out of the military — all because they reported an assault.
Video: “Nalestan” Official Video by 143Band (Paradise&Diverse)
“Nalestan, is a song dedicated to all Afghan Women who are suffering in Afghanistan Society. In this song we have tried to shout out all the pains they are having.” (Nalestan is our Second songs dedicated to all women around the globe who are suffering from being a woman.)
My first Rap, which made me the First Afghan Female Rapper, is Faryade Zan “Woman’s Shout” is about all the problems that Afghan Women and they keep silent. I asked all the females to stand up and Say No Violence. Right After this song, my cousins has burnt themselves because they had to marry an old man. Unfortunately one of them died because of more than 70% of burns with her skin but my other cousin is alive yet and their Dad in put in jail because of selling his daughters. I dedicate this song Nalestan to them and all other woman in the globe. We, as women in most countries, are the generation that Man can do whatever they want to us. Why should we keep silence for what they are all doing for us. The music was composed by 143Band. We made the scenario and shoot it in Herat- Afghanistan. Herat is a Western city in Afghanistan which is so religious. I just wanted to show all the men that I am not afraid of anything and I can shout out my voice.
Even some few women were telling bad words while I was shooting that Music Video. But I will continue and make their mind open to what the hell is going on.”
Video: Death’s Gift by “143Band” (Paradise & Diverse)