Statements of Support

I’m extremely grateful to [POD staff] for all you have done. Of course, we cannot sufficiently express our gratitude to [our pro bono attorney] and her staff for fighting for [survivor] for so many years, against so many odds. It’s reassuring to know that Protect Our Defenders, and the pro bono lawyers who assist you, are working hard on behalf of MST survivors.
— Mother of survivor, US Navy
When I initially filed an appeal on my own to have my discharge reviewed, I lost. [The US Army] said that they were correct in discharging me with a pre-existing personality disorder, after reporting I was raped…Due to the fact you found me an attorney…they are changing my discharge…thank you from the deepest places in my heart.
 — A male survivor, US Army
[My pro bono attorneys] each did such a wonderful job… From the small town detective all the way up to the military attorneys, I saw in-person how sloppy, inefficient, and uncaring our [military] justice system can be. [My attorneys] were a bright spot. They were the fulcrums that balanced out all of the bad, unpleasant, and upsetting aspects that surrounded the trial… I was always stunned by how much they offered and how genuine they were… They truly cared about my case, my family and myself, and they guided all of us through a very dark and troubling time. I am deeply appreciative of all that they did and hope that others in situations like mine could have a bright spot like I was able to have.
— Female survivor, civilian
During a Google search for help for military sexual assault survivors, I came across Protect Our Defenders… Thanks to them, I was referred to legal counsel and got my discharge upgraded to Honorable. I spent ten years trying to find help. While I am still coping with the injustices dealt to me, at least I have received the proper characterization of discharge.
— Male survivor, US Navy
After serving almost 17 years in the Navy, I received a medical retirement, which stemmed from my rape and the years of retaliation I faced after reporting my rape. In January 2017, the Navy went against their own doctor’s recommendation to permanently medically retire me, and I lost all retirement benefits, including my entire family losing Tricare medical benefits. After reaching out to Protect Our Defenders and Human Rights Watch, I was able to obtain legal representation through Protect Our Defenders’ Pro Bono Network. Without this representation, the injustices from the Navy and Department of Defense (DOD) would have continued, once again leaving me defeated – legally, medically, administratively, and emotionally. The team of attorneys sought to deepen their understanding of the military’s complex appeals process and handled my case with sensitivity. They spent months preparing, from gathering necessary evidence to conducting research, in order to ensure I was represented fairly. Had I used the DOD’s appointed legal counsel, this would not have taken place due to the enormous workload already placed on the Physical Evaluation Board (PEB) attorneys. Sadly, I know that I am not the only survivor facing these hardships and hope others reach out for help and assistance. I am forever grateful for the services and connections provided to me by Protect Our Defenders. Thank you.
 — Female survivor, US Navy
I would have been lost without you. These military proceedings are very difficult for a civilian to maneuver. You, your organization, [and attorneys]
were instrumental in helping to achieve this positive outcome.
 — Mother of survivor
I would like to thank you and all the members of Protect Our Defenders for all that you do for victims of military sexual assault. As a victim myself, it is comforting to know that your organization cares about victims and is dedicated to fighting the prevalence of sexual assault in the military… I then contacted Protect Our Defenders recently and [they have] been outstanding in [their] assistance to me, accepting many documents relating to my fight for justice, and taking the time to read through them all… Once again, thank you so very much for all that your organization does to fight the scourge of military sexual assaults.
— Female survivor, Civilian Contractor, US Navy
Thank you for all the support and outreach you have provided the countless amount of women and men who are survivors of military sexual trauma. [Protect Our Defenders] has been my saving grace and my “you’re not alone” go-to outreach when my lawsuit was becoming too much to bear… I have found strength through your site… Keep up the wonderful work.
— Female survivor, US Air Force
I wanted to share an immense thank you with POD and the people who have talked to me and helped give me a voice about what I experienced to help get things to change… The dialogue that was opened up by organizations like yours made a big difference. When people don’t know about the problem, they are indifferent to hearing survivors try to make a change and they think it’s isolated… I’ve found the confidence again to be myself and keep moving. I wanted to say thank you for helping me spiritually and helping me be afforded the opportunity to be heard as a full citizen. I was able to speak at marches, get in contact with senators, commanders, and different organizations and share with people in my life. All of these people chose to listen because I wasn’t alone.
— Female survivor, US Air Force
I wanted to personally thank you for your help to make our Women’s Summit a huge success… Many women veterans were able to find out about our services and especially our MST and mental health programs. Your generosity enabled us to support our women veterans spiritually, emotionally and physically. And thank you for supporting Terri’s efforts at the St. Louis VA. Through Ms. Odom’s efforts, we are more effectively able to complete the mission of providing compassionate care to our veterans. She is a true asset to us, and I hope she will be able to continue to serve with us for many years to come. I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
— St. Louis VA Women Veterans Program Manager Eve Holzemer on Protect Our Defenders Advisory Board member Terri J. Odom 
Non-profit work can really grind on you, but the good you visit upon others is priceless. Never forget that you and the others at POD give hope and a voice to so many of us who never had one before. I thank you for that. I know you are there for the younger ones before they get beaten down too much by the aftereffects. I thank you for shining the light so this is not swept away into the darkness again.
— Female survivor, US Army
Thank you so much for following up and for the work you put in in getting this accomplished. This is the first measurable or really quite possibly just the first good news I’ve had regarding my case.
— Female survivor, US Air Force
I spoke with [POD] about my case, and I just want to say thank you for putting this at the forefront for me and many like me! Thank you for all you do.
— Female survivor, US Army
POD’s involvement in my case has been a game changer for me… I intend to work with you as much as you’ll let me to help protect others like me…thank you for everything you do.
 — A Civilian (survivor), US Air Force
Thank you so much for speaking with me and helping people like me. I appreciate it more than you will ever know.
— Female survivor, US Navy Reserves
You have been so helpful to me so far. I doubt that my troubles with my leadership end soon, but it is so comforting to know you and your organization are there to assist me if I need it. Thank you.
— Female survivor, US Air Force Reserves
I became an active member of Protect Our Defenders because the military leadership failed me… For me personally, POD is what some refer to as “A Game Changer.” When I first shared my story of my rape and torture while serving in the US Navy, I was broken. I felt as though I had no path, nor purpose. But I am back! I am once again serving my country… Protect Our Defenders gave me support, vision and (myself) back.
— Female survivor, US Navy
I have to be active here. If I am not active then my predator will win. He rented free space in my head for too long… I was a second rate survivor that had very little help until I came to DC and met you… I need to change that for the people that come after me. Thank you for allowing me to be active.
— Male survivor, US Navy
I am speechless… This letter, it speaks volumes for me. It has been an uphill journey. I am still trying to readjust from this incident. Sometimes, I felt silenced, but I am learning my voice is powerful… I drew of a better tomorrow for all those who were affected, too. I know I have a purpose. Your organization has done so much for me and others who were affected. This is our story, my journey, and I am grateful to have you for not turning a deaf ear. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
— Female survivor, US Air National Guard
POD and staff are stellar and professional. You all make me proud.
— Female survivor, US Army and US Navy
I just wanted to send a quick email and thank you again for connecting me with [pro bono attorney]. I never imagined that this process would be as difficult as it has been and I am beyond thankful to have him by my side through this. I am sure he has kept you up to speed with how the FOIA process has gone (or not gone!), but I am hopeful that we can continue to push forward and influence change. I am grateful every single day for organizations like POD. It is so encouraging to know that as a survivor, we are not alone in our fight.
— Female survivor, civilian
— Male survivor, US Air Force
This weekend I watched all the video stories on Protect Our Defenders. My husband is ret. Army wounded in OIF. I told him I watched them, and I was so happy when he said would watch them too. He has supported me ever since he [learned about my assault] years after I reported and it was covered up… After watching the stories, my husband, who has endured so much himself, cried and hugged me, and said, they are why you have to testify and protect others, now that you fought so hard to make the USAF listen. I said, I know. Almost no one gets this chance years later.
— Female survivor, US Air Force 
I wanted to thank you for today. It was a small bit of hope over a sexual assault investigation that had gone awry. I’m watching the entire testimony now. You are a hero for us. Without what you have and are doing — we would never be heard.
— LT survivor, US Air Force
We have been so isolated from the military community since coming out about this that our only real connection has been with and through POD. We are grateful for your support and for all POD has done and continues to do for survivors of military assault.
— Mother of survivor, US Navy
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have my voice heard… Sexual assault on men and women in the military is what is undermining good order and discipline. We need to keep using our voice to ensure that future men and women who choose to serve our country are not abused by their fellow men and women abusing their rank.
— Female survivor, US Marine Corps
Thank you for helping our troops. I have sure gained respect for you and what you are doing. If there is anything myself or family can do for you please ask. May God bless you and your work.
— Father of survivor, US Air Force