Military Sex Assault Survivor Fights Discharge Status

Bianca Cruz’s Navy career started with a job she loved on a ship in Japan, but after she was sexually assaulted by a sailor, her military life spiraled downward, ending with a “bad paper” discharge after serving 20 months. “If it weren’t for the sexual assault, I would still be in Japan,” said Cruz, 22, a Navy hospital corpsman, who returned home in November 2015. Cruz is among the thousands of sexual assault victims who have been pushed out of the military with a less than honorable discharge, according to a Human Rights Watch report released in May, Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors. The Navy diagnosed Cruz with a “personality disorder,” which the Rights Watch report said the military regularly uses to trigger quick dismissals of sexual assault victims.

Cruz is appealing to the Navy Discharge Review Board, requesting that her discharge status be upgraded from general (under honorable conditions) to honorable. Her current discharge status prevents her from receiving G.I. education benefits and re-enlisting in the military.

Marine: Military Sex Abuse Has Deep Cultural Roots

When former Marine Maureen Gard goes running, the flashbacks come: riding in the platoon leader’s car, the jokes about her bra size, the fondling, and the pinning her down. She was 18 at the time and considered her platoon leader a friend when she went for a ride with him to a mall near their base in Virginia. They were classmates training to be Marine musicians.  He drove fast, her cell phone fell between her legs, he reached down to get it, she said.  He fondled her knees, legs and stomach, drove to a wooded area behind an abandoned building, and climbed on top of her and pinned her down.  He kissed her and kept asking if she liked the encounter.  She resisted his advances and was able to get out of the car, she said.