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Sailor denied compensation for PTSD she links to sexual assault in Mexico

Naval ship
Naval ship - computer screenshot

Victim told she ‘created the incident’

A sailor sexually assaulted by two shipmates during a port visit to Mexico has failed in her bid to win compensation for the resulting post traumatic stress disorder.

The woman — a naval reservist who served from April 1998 until February 2005 — was 37 when her case was heard in April by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. She was appealing a January 2005 ministerial decision that denied her compensation for PTSD.

“The panel finds that there is no causal connection between the precipitating incident and the applicant’s military service,” says the recent decision, which does not identify the woman.

“As the courts have stated, even when a condition occurs during service in the military, it does not necessarily mean it was caused by military service. Therefore, the panel finds that there is not sufficient evidence to conclude that the applicant’s claimed condition is related to her military career in the reserve force.”

The sexual assault took place in March 2002 when the woman visited the town of La Paz, Mexico, with some of her crewmates, says the panel’s decision. She was in Mexico becauseher ship was on exercises with the Royal Canadian Navy, but there was no evidence presented indicating she was ordered to go ashore.

“She trusted her colleagues and shipmates and the military expected them to behave in a certain way. She was not with random people, she was with trusted comrades,” says the decision.

It does not identify what warship the woman was serving on when the sexual assault took place.

She testified that “the culture on the ship was outrageous. There was alcohol being served all the time. She feels the officers aboard the ship didn’t deal with the crazy stuff that was happening.”

In December 2014, the navy’s top sailor ordered that no alcohol be consumed aboard warships, unless the vessel is tied up or an exception has been made for a special occasion. That came after the coastal defence vessel HMCS Whitehorse was ordered home to Esquimalt, B.C., from a U.S. exercise with some of its sailors accused of sexual misconduct, shoplifting and drunkenness.

After the sexual assault in Mexico, the woman was kept aboard HMCS Edmonton and her two assailants were placed on other ships, says the recent panel decision.

“She states this was uncomfortable as the ships were moored together and to get to shore she would have to cross at least one of the other party’s ship. She states she was constantly concerned with having to be in a situation where she might see one or both of them.”

The sailor testified the investigation might have been incomplete. “When she got home she was never given the morning after pill. She had an infection and she had to take antibiotics. They did find semen, but apparently it wasn’t enough to use for DNA testing.”

The woman eventually flew back to Canada, says the decision.

“She states that she was dropped off at the airport without anyone to help her. She recalls not understanding anything and crying at the feeling of being overwhelmed.”

During the ensuing court martial for her assailants, the sailor said she felt like she was the one on trial, says the decision.

“After the court martial, she was ordered back to the ship for sea training which involved constant drills and no sleep. She was given an administrative review. This review was done to highlight her involvement regarding the sexual assault. She was told that she had over drank and created the incident.”

When the sailor later returned to sea, she couldn’t do the training, says the decision.

“It was too emotionally hard. She states that she lost everything as they cancelled her contract. She had to pack her bags and took a bus home. She lost her job and social connections.”

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