SHARP and the Military
Teaching SHARP – Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program – classes in the US Army was never fun. There was a set curriculum and PowerPoint slide deck, and there’s only so much discussion of policy an eighteen-year-old Private can take before he falls asleep. But there’s one thing I did absorb from receiving, and teaching, SHARP classes. My old SHARP Victim Advocate textbook says it very clearly: “Sexual assault is unacceptable conduct and will not be tolerated. Leadership must be committed to creating and maintaining an environment with respect to human dignity…” So when I stumbled across this piece of information on CPL Thae Ohu’s case, my eyebrows went up. She was a victim of sexual assault. Did the US Marine Corps handle CPL Ohu’s case appropriately?
After CPL Ohu was assaulted, sources say, she filed a DD 2910. That’s a Victim Preference Reporting System statement, which notifies the Department of Defense that an assault has occurred. However, according to those same sources, that form never made it into the Defense Sexual Assault Incident Database. Apparently, it vanished. Additionally, they say, CPL Ohu’s alleged rapist worked at the same legal office where prosecutors in her case worked. He’s reportedly now at the Pentagon.
Lindsay Knapp, attorney, veteran, and Executive Director of Combat Sexual Assault, said in a statement “The Marine Corps is retaliating against Thae because she reported one of their up and coming legal Marines. Her supervisor, who she trusted, drank with her until she was incapacitated to the point where she could not walk. He carried her back to a bed of his choosing and raped her. She woke up, realized what had happened, and made a restricted report. The Navy Criminal Investigative Service created a 10-page document that failed to interview the person who she reported to and several other individuals who became aware of the situation over time.” If true, that’s a blatant violation of sexual assault response policy.
CPL Ohu isn’t the only case where questions are being raised. PFC Celeste Largo also sits in the brig, facing charges, and reportedly a victim of military sexual trauma. PFC Largo is the daughter of a Marine, and the granddaughter of a World War II Navajo Code Talker. She was the first female of her bloodline to enlist. According to the Marine Corps Times, PFC Largo was also a victim of sexual assault. She was reportedly raped by a superior.
Is the US military, despite all its claims to the contrary, punishing victims who come forward? The DoD Safe Helpline, a service offered by the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network specifically for servicemembers, doesn’t offer any statistics on the number of women and men who faced retaliation for coming forward. They do offer support for it. According to Chisholm, Chisho & Kilpatrick LTD, “Less than 50 percent of women who reported MST felt well supported by their chain of command.” These cases may illustrate why.