Happy Veteran’s Day to CPL Thae Ohu. This year, after being charged with aggravated assault, she’s spending it in the brig. But there’s more to this story. Both her family and the victim, her ex-boyfriend, say that she suffered a psychological break caused by trauma from a previous sexual assault. Her story echoes the stories of many survivors of military sexual trauma – a term used for harassment, sexual assault, and rape. CPL Thae Ohu may be the victim of military sexual trauma, but she’s not alone.
The Marines and the Law
In an op-ed, chief advocacy officer Sherman Gillums Jr. writes “While her [CPL Ohu’s] boyfriend was certainly shaken…it was clear to him and the authorities that she was a Marine in crisis, not a criminal.” Despite that, Marine officers are bringing CPL Ohu to trial on nine separate charges. They have also requested a gag order. The gag order would prevent any of CPL Ohu’s family or legal team from speaking to the press.
Sexual Trauma in the Military
CPL Ohu’s story is not the only one. Approximately 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 100 men, will experience military sexual trauma while serving. While the military is trying to fight this, it’s slow going. In 2012, the Service Womens Advocacy Network (SWAN) noted that “3,192 military sexual assaults were reported in fiscal year 2011, an increase of 1% from fiscal year 2010 and a 1.1% decrease from 2009”. A memo to the House Committee on Armed Forces showed that number rose in fiscal year 2019.
Veterans can also face significant challenges in getting aid. In a report published by the ACLU and SWAN, “VA [Veterans Affairs] granted disability benefit claims for PTSD related to MST at a significantly lower rate than claims for PTSD unrelated to MST every year from 2008 to 2012. The grant rate for MST-related PTSD claims has lagged behind the grant rate for other PTSD claims by between 16.5 and 29.6 percentage points every year.”
The Ongoing Battle
CPL Ohu’s story is not over yet. The legal fight is just beginning. CPL Ohu is allegedly a victim of military sexual trauma. Many survivors of military sexual trauma, male and female, will be watching for the outcome.