Staff Sergeant Angel Sanchez appeared at a pre-trial hearing at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri on Wednesday after being charged with sexually assaulting four women and assaulting eight others since 2011. The allegations are horrifying — in one instance, military prosecutors say he "grabbed a female soldier by her hair and forced her to perform oral sex in a women's bathroom in the barracks at Fort Leonard Wood."
In addition to sexual assault allegations, prosectors also say he attempted "to spy on one female soldier while she was showering in Afghanistan, and watched "another naked female service member while she weighed herself in a closet" while he was on deployment in Afghanistan in 2012. Of course, Sanchez's attorney contests the reliability of Sanchez's accusers. He told Dan Lamothe at The Washington Post, "In my opinion, there are a lot of issues with the credibility of the witnesses and the government’s case against my client."
Despite Sanchez's attorney's best defense of his client, Sanchez's case will likely go to court martial. There are a dozen alleged victims, and even more Army women who say Sanchez made inappropriate comments to them on duty. Military prosecutors allege Sanchez used his position of power to repeatedly assault women and then keep them quiet over a period of three years.
Unfortunately, even if Sanchez's victims see justice this year, thousands more women sexually assaulted during their time in the military never will. Just this week, Rep. Jackie Speier accused the Pentagon of diagnosing sexual assault victims with adjustment disorder to discharge them. Greg Jacob, the policy director at the Service Women's Action Network, tells The Washington Times, "They’ve taken personality disorder discharges and are now charging it as an adjustment disorder discharge. It's the same process with a different label." As Jacqueline Klimas at the Times explains, before 2007, complaining service members would often be discharged because of a personality disorder diagnosis. After this tactic was brought to light by lawmakers and press, the number of personality disorder diagnoses dropped, and the number of adjustment disorder diagnoses rose. Speier says,
It's like a Whac-A-Mole. Every time we shut them down on something, they'll find a way around it.
According to a Yale Law report, personality disorder discharges dropped from 1,200 to 100 in the Air Force between 2007 and 2009. Over the same period, adjustment disorder discharges increased "sevenfold."