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LAS-ELC Represents Victim of Sexual Assault Forced Out of Military After Reporting Attack
This week, LAS-ELC Senior Staff Attorney Elizabeth Kristen, together with Cacilia Kim, Senior Staff Attorney at the California Women’s Law Center (CWLC), represented a 20 year-old member of the U.S. Air Force who was sexually assaulted by a superior non commissioned officer while serving his country before the Air Force’s Formal Physical Evaluation Board.
Airman 1st Class Trent Smith was sexually assaulted while on duty at Vogelweh Air Base in Germany and, following proper procedures, reported his attack twice and sought counseling. Unfortunately, the Air Force responded by misdiagnosing him with a personality disorder. Airman Smith was subsequently found unfit to serve as the Air Forced claimed that the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) brought on by his assault would not be treatable due to his misdiagnosed personality disorder.
LAS-ELC and CWLC, with funding from Protect Our Defenders, secured an independent psychiatric assessment of Airman Smith. After conducting a thorough mental health assessment, the forensic Psychiatrist concluded that there was no evidence of a Personality Disorder. He also found that Airman Smith’s PTSD was treatable with medication.
Airman Smith is appealing this decision with the help of LAS-ELC and CWLC. In response to the decision, he said: “All I want to do is serve my country. I hope that our appeal is successful.”
It is essential that individuals who take the brave step of reporting abuse in the military are not punished for doing so. Those who, like Airman Smith, speak out after suffering severe trauma should not be forced out of the military in retaliation for their honesty. We hope that, by appealing this misguided decision, future victims of Military Sexual Trauma will not refrain from reporting it out of fear they will be punished for someone else’s crime.