Former Ft. Benning soldier speaking out against military sexual assault
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - A combat medic, formerly on Fort Benning, and also survivor of military sexual assault is one of the people taking part in Ms. Veteran America, now in is 10th year with the finals this weekend.
“Taylor’s always been a leader, and I think that it’s a great opportunity to be able to highlight her military service,” said the contestant’s father Frank Sheppard.
Sergeant Taylor Anne Kneuven, a combat medic, who’s served in the U.S. Army since 2013, is competing in Ms. Veteran America this year. The competition is similar to a beauty pageant. It showcases the various hats military women wear outside of their uniform.
Before applying, Sgt. Kneuven researched the competition’s cause -- to raise money for homeless women veterans and their children.
A survivor of military sexual assault herself, Sgt. Kneuven used the incident to suggest changes about how the military addresses sexual assault and sexual harassment. Typically, when those cases are reported, both the victim and the accused go before three people who decide whether the accused should remain in the military or be discharged.
With only men serving on the board when she had her hearing, Sgt. Kneuven felt that needed to be changed.
Sgt. Kneuven said, “My concern was how are we picking these people on this board and do they represent females in the military?”
She says her recommendations have led to talks of the policy being changed to ensure the demographics of both the victim and accused are represented on the board. As for any active duty service member who’s experiencing sexual assault, Sgt. Kneuven encourages them to also speak up.
“You lead from the front by saying, ‘I’m not cool with that’ and you make that report and you stay firm,” said Sgt. Kneuven.
The Ms. Veteran America competition will be held in Florida on Sunday and will be livestreamed due to COVID.
If you are a uniformed-service member or their family member and you’ve been sexual assaulted, you can call the Department of Defense Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247.
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