A Latina Military Sex Assault Survivor Fights Discharge Status



Bianca Cruz at her home in Hamden, Connecticut. (Photo by Tony Bacewicz for C-Hit.org)
Bianca Cruz at her home in Hamden, Connecticut. (Photo by Tony Bacewicz for C-Hit.org)

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. It also carries a stigma that can affect employment. It does provide her with medical benefits and entitles her to a veteran’s burial.
Margaret Kuzma, an attorney with the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, which is representing Cruz, said, “A discharge upgrade will remedy all these injustices.”
An upgrade to an honorable discharge would also remove the characterization on her discharge papers that states “condition, not a disability,” which refers to personality disorder, Kuzma said.
“I want it to be fixed. I don’t deserve it,” Cruz said of her discharge status in a recent interview.
For some, the effects of less than honorable discharges are often “far-reaching for veterans … impacting employment, child custody, health care, disability payments, burial rights—virtually all aspects of life,” the Rights Watch report said.
Cruz was transferred to Beaufort, South Carolina, after her assault so she could get away from her attacker. Under stress, she attempted suicide while there.
She was discharged after being accused of labeling a medical cart with the wrong code, which was cited as a lack of attention to detail.
She denied the allegation and asked for a court martial but was…
To read full article: http://c-hit.org/2016/07/19/military-sex-assault-survivor-fights-discharge-status/