2016 Photo Contest, Long-Term Projects, 1st prize

Sexual Assault in America's Military


Mary F. Calvert

20 May, 2015

Sandra Sherman (51) had been in the army only a few weeks when she was drugged and raped at a party. She was also raped by a fellow soldier at her next duty station. After leaving the army she felt emotionally numb, began to hallucinate, could not work and became homeless, eventually calling a crisis line and finding help. Sandra was transferred to Naomi House, transition housing for homeless women veterans, run by the Salvation Army. She and other veterans salute the color guard at an event for homeless veterans in LA, which gives them medicine, housing services, and a chance to replenish.

The incidence of sexual assault on women by their colleagues in the US Armed Forces is high. Many women see reporting attacks to their commands as difficult or futile. Very few sexual assaults are reported and only a fraction of those get to court. The trauma of a sexual assault, and the ensuing emotional distress, may lead to long-term personal issues. The effects of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) include drug and alcohol dependence, homelessness, and an increased risk of suicide. Challenges for women veterans are not always met by existing vet programs. Women veterans form the fastest growing segment of the homeless population of the US, and are four times more likely to be homeless as other women.

The photographer, who comes from a military family, made it her mission to document the lives of MST survivors, and to keep the issue talked about. She learned that they formed a network of support for each other, but that homeless survivors were a hidden population, who rarely spoke to others about their experiences.

About the photographer

Mary F. Calvert

Calvert believes that journalists have a duty to shine a light into the deepest recesses of the human experience and provide a mirror for society to examine itself. Mary has b...

Technical information

Shutter Speed
Focal length
36.0 mm
Nikon D3S

This image is collected in