Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Military
Sexual assault and harassment are serious problems in the U.S. armed forces. Thousands of service members each year are estimated to have experienced some form of sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment.
The ACLU Women’s Rights Project (WRP) works to hold the government accountable to survivors of military sexual violence and harassment through litigation and federal legislative and administrative advocacy.
Exposing Governmental Failures to Address Military Sexual Violence Through FOIA litigation
WRP, with the Service Women’s Action Network and the ACLU of Connecticut, brought Freedom of Information Act litigation against the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to obtain the release of records regarding how they address and respond to military sexual violence.
Reforming the Military Justice System
The ACLU supports legislative reforms that would improve service members’ access to justice by ensuring that the prosecution and disposition of criminal offenses within the military are decided outside of the chain of command. The current military justice system is not impartial because commanders ultimately decide how charges are pursued and resolved. This affects all service members, but it is of particular concern for survivors of military sexual violence because of a long practice within the military of dismissing or minimizing sexual violence complaints.
- Written Statement of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hearing on Sexual Assault in the Military, submitted to the Subcommittee on Personnel of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services (March 13, 2013)
- Vote YES for the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 (S. 1752) (March 6, 2014)
- ACLU Letter in Support of the Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013 (November 19, 2013)
- ACLU Comments in Response to the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Interim Final Rule on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Procedures (June 10, 2013)
Discrimination Against Veterans with Disabilities Due to Military Sexual Violence
Many veterans who survive sexual violence during service must fight a second battle with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs when they return to civilian life. The process of obtaining VA disability benefits for the enduring mental health effects of military sexual trauma (MST) is an unfair fight in which veterans are often unsuccessful due to discrimination by the VA against their claims.
- Battle for Benefits: VA Discrimination Against Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma
- Written Statement of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hearing on the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 (S. 294), submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (June 5, 2013)
- Written Statement of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hearing on the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 (S. 294), submitted to the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (May 15, 2013)
- Written Statement of the American Civil Liberties Union, Hearing on the Ruth Moore Act of 2013 (H.R. 671), submitted to the Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs (DAMA) of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs (April 16, 2013)
- Amicus Brief in VA Rulemaking Petition Case, SWAN v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Legal DocumentApril 23, 2018