It is a little known fact that women veterans are four times more likely to become homeless than female civilians.
Now a new photo essay offers an unvarnished glimpse into the lives of those women who served in the armed forces only to find themselves without a roof over their head in their post-military lives.
They tell horrific stories of sexual assault at the hands of their male comrades and superiors as well as the subsequent post-traumatic stress that impairs their personal lives and economic well-being.
The images and stories first appeared in the British publication The Mirror.
US Air Force veteran Lurae Horse was a 19-year-old B-29 bomber mechanic when she was raped by an anonymous member of her squadron
She never reported the brutal sexual assault. ‘I just pulled up my pants and went back to work,’ she said
Homeless, she shelters in a corner of a friend’s dining room in Paramount, California
Homeless veteran Darlene Matthews has been living in her car for over two years while she waits for a housing voucher from the Department of Veterans Affairs
She joined the US Army in 1976 and was sent to Fort McLellan, Alabama. She is seen above near her car in Costa Mesa, California
‘I was going to join this all women’s army and there would be no sexual problems, but I joined and there were sexual problems,’ she said
Alishaa Dell, 25, spent five years in the US Navy. Homeless, she lives off a disability check from the VA and has been couch surfing with friends until she wears out her welcome
Even after her discharge from the Navy, she is not ready to discuss her experience as a victim of sexual assault
‘I’m treating all the problems that come with Military Sexual Trauma without talking about the MST. I’m treating the symptoms and repercussions,’ she said
Lurae Horse served in the United States Air Force as a mechanic who worked on the B-29 bomber.
According to Horse, she was raped by an anonymous member of her squadron.
Afterward, she declined to file an official complaint.
‘I just pulled up my pants and went back to work,’ she said.
Former US Marine Sarah Jenkins, high on drugs and on the street, accepts a bag of food and water from the National Veterans Foundation outreach van
Jenkins says she has a place to stay in Anaheim, California
Melissa A. Ramon clutches her US Air Force uniform under the watchful eyes of her dog Princess
Ramon spent nine years in the US Air Force where she endured military sexual trauma at the hands of her training instructor and fellow airmen
Ramon walks past a man waiting to sell drugs outside her room at a motel she calls ‘The Jungle’ in Pomona, California
Ramon and her son, Sam, rest at her grandmother’s grave after his eighth grade graduation ceremony in Pomona
While Ramon gets ready to to go to the VA, her US Air Force uniform hangs in the closet of her room in ‘The Jungle’
Ramon’s predicament is particularly difficult given that she is not only suffering from the aftereffects of her trauma but is also a single mother
Ramon is on a cocktail of pills prescribed by her doctors at the VA to treat the symptoms of her condition
Ramon is seen above with her son while he holds what appears to be a gun. She has sought help from the VA and several veteran NGOs
Ramon recites the Pledge of Allegiance with other veterans at the 4th Annual Heroes in the Shadows, San Gabriel Valley Veterans Stand Down. The purpose of a stand-down is to offer a safe retreat for homeless veterans
Ramon is seen above cheering for Sam during his 8th grade graduation ceremony
In preparation for the graduation ceremony, Ramon attempts to tie a knot in Sam’s tie
Another female veteran, Alishaa Dell, is also homeless after spending five years in the Navy.
‘I am worth so much f***ing more than what I got paid to do in the military,’ she said.
‘I got tired of getting sand kicked in my eyes for doing what I was supposed to do.’
Dell has refused to discuss details of her falling victim to sexual assault.
Sarah Jenkins completed her military service in the US Marine Corps.
She, too, is a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma, whereby soldiers are victimized in the armed forces while on active duty.
Jenkins has succumbed to the grip of drug addiction. She lives on the street and relies on food handouts from the National Veterans Foundation.
Sandra Sherman, 51, left, salutes the color guard at the Goodwill Industries Los Angeles stand-down, an event for local homeless veterans that gives them access to medical and housing services
Sherman had only been in the US Army for a few weeks when she was drugged and raped at a party that she attended with her female buddies from basic training. She never reported the assault to her command
Homeless women veterans sleep in women’s tents at the San Diego Veteran’s Village Stand Down. ‘It was well known if you reported rape you would be killed or chaptered out with a less than honorable discharge,’ Sherman said. ‘To this day if I have a male supervisor, I am apprehensive, nervous and afraid’
Debra Filter has been homeless for 10 years despite having a Master’s Degree. Having enlisted in the US Army in 1978, she says she and other female friends in her unit were raped at a graduation party. She was given an honorable discharge after symptoms of post-traumatic stress forced her to cut short a planned career in the military
Liz Luras competed in the Ms. Veteran America pageant and used the opportunity to share her story with the other contestants. She is seen above in Leesburg, Virginia
Luras was raped three times during her military career and received a personality disorder discharge
She has struggled with the ramifications of her discharge and has found it difficult to find a job and has had stints of homelessness
Glendy Golden, 58, enlisted in the US Army to escape a sexually abusive home life. She said the Army ‘was a way out’. She was sexually assaulted several times during her 18 month military career and when she told her chaplain about it, he simply sent her to medical where she says, they tied her down and beat her
US Army veteran Wilma M. Herndon watches TV in her room at the Mary Walker House for homeless women veterans in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. She was married to another soldier who beat and sexually assaulted her
At the conclusion of the San Diego homeless veterans stand down sponsored by Veterans Village of San Diego, Paula Anderson (left) and Patricia Butts (right) carry their belongings in the pouring rain with the help of an unidentified man on the far left
Butts was a young US Army soldier stationed in Ft. Devens, Massachuetts, when she witnessed a steady campaign of rape within her unit. At night a sergeant or a lieutenant would come in and take a woman to the bathroom. ‘You could hear them struggling and screaming and they would come back crying,’ she said
When Karen Scott joined the US Army in 1985, she was a lithe, slender and attractive young woman who attended and finished flight school and had a bright future in telecommunications and arial observation
Instead, she became a target for sexual assault and over the next seven years was raped several times and endured a steady campaign of innuendoes, threats, harassment and sexual badgering. She is seen above in Long Beach, California
Women who fall victim to sexual assault in the armed forces may find themselves marginalized after coming forward to complain.
Paula Anderson, who enlisted in the US Army, once told her superiors that she was drugged and raped by a fellow soldier.
The Army subsequently decided to redeploy Anderson to Korea.
Another homeless veteran, Darlene Matthews, has been living in her car for more than two years while she waits for the Department of Veterans Affairs to extend her a housing voucher.
Matthews, who enlisted in the US Army in 1976, says that her time spent at Fort McLellan, Alabama was a harrowing one.
‘I was going to join this all women’s army and there would be no sexual problems, but I joined and there were sexual problems,’ she said.
DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SAYS SEXUAL ASSAULT REPORTS IN US MILITARY REACH RECORD HIGH
The US military received a record number of sexual assault reports in 2016, the Pentagon said this past May, calling it a sign of service members’ trust in the system.
Sexual assault and harassment in the US military has come under scrutiny after a scandal involving some Marines sharing nude photos of women online came to light.
The US military has opened an inquiry and senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill have denounced the violations.
Service members reported 6,172 cases of sexual assault in 2016 compared to 6,082 last year, an annual military report showed.
This was a sharp jump from 2012 when 3,604 cases were reported.
‘We see the increase in rates of reporting as an indicator of a continued trust in our response and support systems,’ said Elizabeth Van Winkle, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for readiness, at a press conference.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, in a statement, questioned if there was actual progress.
‘The truth is that the scourge of sexual assault in the military remains status quo,’ she said.
‘Today’s report disappointingly shows a flat overall reporting rate and a retaliation rate against survivors that remains at an unacceptable six out of 10 for a third year in a row.’
The Pentagon said its report found the number of sexual assault in the US military has fallen.
‘These numbers show real, continued progress as a result of our historic reforms to the military justice system,’ Sen. Claire McCaskill, a senior member of the Armed Services Committee and former prosecutor of sex crimes, said in a statement.
‘One assault is one too many and this fight isn’t over, but as our reforms continue to take root, we continue to see increased confidence among victims to come out of the shadows and report, and even more importantly, less of these crimes overall.’
Last year, McCaskill, of Missouri, and Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa sponsored the ‘Military Retaliation Prevention Act’ which is aimed at ending retaliation for reporting sexual assault.
Within the recent military report was an anonymous survey, conducted every two years, which found that 14,900 service members experienced some kind of sexual assault in 2016, from rape to groping, down from 20,300 in 2014.
But 58 percent of victims experienced reprisals or retaliation for reporting sexual assault, the report showed.
‘The fight to end sexual assault, sexual harassment and related misconduct in the military is far from over,’ said Van Winkle.
‘We do not confuse progress with success.’
The Marine Corps has been rattled by a scandal involving a private Facebook group called ‘Marines United’ and its surreptitious distribution of explicit images of women in the armed forces, often with obscene, misogynist commentary.