The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of Connecticut are suing the government to get military records supporting their claims that there have been tens of thousands of occurrences of unwanted sexual acts in the military to include everything from sexual harassment to sexual assault to rape.
The lawsuit claims these acts cause their victims to develop military sexual trauma (MST). Further, the lawsuit claims these acts happen in the military at a 2:1 ratio compared against the civilian world. Multiple requests for these records sent to the government under the Freedom of Information Act went unanswered, which is why they filed the lawsuit.
All 3 groups believe MST is so common and happens so frequently in the military that it is a matter of public concern for these records to be released. Further, the lawsuit seeks to discover how the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have responded to complaints of MST. The presence of sexual abuse is not in question. This lawsuit wants to expose just how rampant the abuse is and widespread it extends. The issue is many of the victims of the abuse are not receiving proper treatment, and these groups want to know what policies the DoD and the VA have established.
Many female soldiers suffering from MST find it very difficult to successfully return to their civilian lives. The number of female veterans ending up homeless has doubled over the last 10 years. Conversely, over the same time period, the overall number of homeless veterans has dropped. The increasing amount of homeless female veterans is not surprising given the fact that close to 40% of them report being sexually assaulted while in service.
The military does not employ any real orderly data collecting system to keep track of the amount of sexual assaults. The DoD approximated 3,200 MST cases existed in the military in 2009. Many believe this to be a very low estimate given the amount of sexual assaults that are never reported, and the amount that cannot be proven.
If you are a disabled veteran who has been denied disability compensation or have not yet applied for benefits from the VA, contact LaVan & Neidenberg. You may be entitled to certain programs and benefits so contact our veterans disability rights firm today.