UPDATE: Mary F. Calvert’s “Missing in Action: Homeless Women Veterans”


Today is the last day of Mary F. Calvert’s Alexia Foundation Instagram take over. All this past week, she has been sharing powerful images and the moving stories of women whose brutal sexual assaults while in the U.S. Military resulted in their homelessness. Calvert was the recipient of the our second Women’s Initiative grant. These are the photographs from her project, Missing in Action: Homeless Female Veterans.

Women veterans are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in the United States and are four times more likely to become homeless than civilian women. For many women, the military was a way to escape a difficult situation, yet lack of advancement and high levels of harassment and sexual assault have driven them out.

Missing in Action: Homeless Female Veterans is the third stage of her long term reporting project, The War Within: Sexual Assault in America’s Military. She began the project documenting the Congressional Hearings on sexual assault in the military. In the second stage, she showed the devastating impact Military Sexual Trauma has on survivors, including 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,” Calvert explains. “Many frequently end up addicted to drugs and alcohol, homeless or take their own lives.”

She has been recognized by numerous groups for her work. Calvert has received the 2016 World Press Photo First Prize, Long-Term Project, the 2015 and 2016 NPPA Cliff Edom New America Award, the 2015 W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund Fellowship and, in 2013, the Canon Female Photojournalist Award. She recently received a Getty Images Editorial Grant to work on the the forth and current stage of this long term project, “Prisoners of War: Male on Male Rape in America’s Military.”

Of the estimated 20,000 sexual assaults that took place in the military last year, 52% of them were men. 87% of men who are attacked never report the crime. Men who are assaulted face a different set of circumstances. While women may have support networks, and confide in therapists or friends, male victims often take between 20-40 years to even acknowledge the crime or speak about the assault with anyone.

“The silent suffering is devastating,” Calvert told Vantage. “You find men who’ve had broken marriages and substance-abuse problems and sometimes served jail terms.”

There are a number of organizations working to help veterans suffering from the aftermath of Military Sexual Trauma. Protect Our Defenders, National Veterans Foundation and the Military Rape Crisis Center are three such groups, if you would like to learn how to help.

Meanwhile, we urge you to take time to go through her Alexia Instagram posts to understand this issue more deeply: @alexiafoundation. Awareness makes stopping this ill possible. We are proud to have had the opportunity to support Calvert’s vitally important work.

You can read recent interviews with Calvert at Medium’s Vantage or L’Oeil de la Photographie. View her Alexia Interview at alexiafoundation.org/blog/2016/06/13/mary-f-calvert-on-missing-in-action-homeless-women-veterans/.

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