It took more than two decades, but Heath Phillips has won an “honorable” discharge from the military, which has finally believed his stories of sexual assault.
The Navy shipman joined in 1988 at age 18 and had gone AWOL more than once while faced with recurring sexual assault by a gang of men — who he repeatedly reported, but no one did anything to stop the rape. Then, Phillips agreed to an “other than honorable” discharge just to escape.
Ever since, Phillips has tried to upgrade that discharge record. Stars and Stripes reported last week that the Board for Correction of Naval Records has finally agreed, on his fourth appeal. His mental health suffered, he drank, divorced from his wife, and has struggled with the long effects of what happened.
“For 25-plus years I have been plagued with the stigma of having an other than honorable discharge because I was raped and retaliated against,” Phillips, now 47, told Stars and Stripes, adding, “What pushes and drives me is that I don’t want anyone else to ever go through that.”
Phillips had told his story for years as an activist with Protect Our Defenders, speaking out against male sexual assault in the military. The Washington Post reported today on the case and on sexual assault being underreported in the military. Watch a video of Phillips describing what he survived.