This important and powerfully told photo-documentary report tells the story of an epidemic of sexual assault in the US Armed Forces which is just beginning to come to light. The series was named a Series Winner in the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2015.

Women who join the US Armed Forces are being raped and sexually assaulted by their colleagues in record numbers. An estimated 20,000 rapes and sexual assaults took place last year and only 6,236 victims reported their attacks. Just one in ten of those cases went to trial and most military rape survivors are forced out of service. The violence of the rape and the ensuing emotional trauma are compounded by the futility of reporting the attacks to their commanders.

“Though he didn’t act like a gentleman, there was no reason to prosecute.”

At the White House and during hearings on Capitol Hill, the US military has been forced to examine why rape and sexual assault are so prevalent within their ranks. In addition, they must confront a culture where its victims ignored and the abuse is considered simply a breach of conduct—not a criminal offense.

The effects of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) include depression, substance abuse, paranoia and feelings of isolation. Victims spend years drowning in shame and fear as the psychological damage silently eats away at their lives. Many frequently end up addicted to drugs and alcohol, homeless or take their own lives.

—Mary Calvert