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

Sexual Assault in America's Military

Photographer

Mary F. Calvert

08 December, 2013

Jennifer Norris was drugged and raped by her recruiter after joining the Air Force, when she was 21 years old. In tech school, she fought off an assault from her instructor, and later evaded the advances of her commanders. Jennifer reported the sexual assaults and harassment, saw her attackers punished, but then suffered a sustained campaign of retaliation by her peers at work. Now she suffers with PTSD brought on by MST and is often unable to work. She has become an advocate and is the Maine coordinator for the Military Rape Crisis Center, counseling MST survivors from her home in Rumford, Maine. She sits with her PTSD service dog Onyx at a fellow military rape survivor's home in Biloxi, Mississippi.

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

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
1/160
Focal length
24.0 mm
F-Stop
2.8
ISO
1250
Camera
Nikon D3

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