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

Sexual Assault in America's Military

Photographer

Mary F. Calvert

21 July, 2015

Alishaa Dell (25) spent five years in the navy. She is still not ready to discuss her MST. Homeless, she lives off a $600 disability check from the VA, and stayed with a succession of friends, until wearing out her welcome each time. Now she lives with a boyfriend, who she wants to break up with. But, Alishaa says, she has nowhere else to go, and is seeking housing and medical help from the VA.

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
1/640
Focal length
32.0 mm
F-Stop
4.0
ISO
400
Camera
Nikon D3S

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