U.S. Navy sailor Melissa Bania holds a banner inscribed with the story of her rape by a fellow sailor before hanging it on the footbridge across from Naval Base San Diego. Military sexual trauma survivors gathered in April 2016 in San Diego to bring attention to the epidemic of rape in America’s military.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2016 Report on Sexual Assault in the Military, an estimated 14,900 service members (8,600 women and 6,300 men) were sexually assaulted in 2016. U.S. non-governmental organizations, such as Protect Our Defenders, claim that because most victims were assaulted more than once, this number is far higher. Rather than receive a badge of honor for speaking out, many sexual assault victims who report the crime to their superiors fear retaliation, demotion, or expulsion from the military. The same report found that fifty-eight per cent of those who reported their sexual assault said they faced retaliation of some kind and a third of those reporting were discharged from the military, typically within 7 months of reporting.
Mary F. Calvert is a photojournalist based in the United States and a 2017 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in Photography. She is committed to using photography to affect meaningful social change and is known for producing work on under-reported and neglected gender-based human rights issues.