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. 

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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.

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