Heath Phillips, Active Duty Military & Veterans Advocate, a Voice for Male Victims of Crime

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Heath Phillips, US Navy

Heath Phillips is a US Navy veteran who served his country honorably up until he became a victim of sexual assault while on board the ship he was assigned to. As a result of the crimes, Heath chose not to go back to the ship in an effort to escape the hazing, retaliation, and further sexual and physical assault that awaited him. Instead he went Absent Without Leave (AWOL) and was eventually given an Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharge from the military. As a result of the discharge status, his life has been impacted greatly up to and including not having the ability to access veteran’s health care and compensation at the Department of Veterans Affairs for the injuries he sustained in the line of duty.

Since 2009, he has been an active voice for male victims of crimes in the military and has helped to educate the public about male military sexual assault issues. He has helped Representative Jackie Speier gain support for the Sexual Assault Training, Oversight, and Prevention Act (STOP Act). He has supported Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in efforts to pass the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). He advocated on behalf of the Human Rights Watch organization for passage of the Fairness for Veterans Act. He continues to work closely with organizations and members of Congress to elevate support for male victims of crimes in the military and improve care for them in active duty and veteran status.

Update (June 2018): Heath Phillips appeared on the Today Show and informed the public that his military discharge status had been upgraded to HONORABLE

In the News:

Military Rape Speech 6 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier: I’ve discussed the military culture where victims are blamed and assailants are promoted. And I’ve shared the personal stories of several women in order to shine a light on this ongoing epidemic. But it is not only our female service members being raped. Men are being victimized too. (July 20, 2011)

Heath Phillips discusses surviving military sexual trauma & respect (July 1, 2018)

Anya Parampil breaks down a report written by the RAND Corporation that shows that there is still a sexual assault crisis in the US military. Anya reviews the findings of the study, which states that sexual assault is most rampant in the Navy. Anya speaks with US Navy Veteran, Heath Phillips, who shares his own experiences with sexual assault in the Navy and offers solutions to end the epidemic. -RT America (September 24, 2018)

Documentaries:

When his commanders would not stop sexual assaults by his shipmates, Heath went AWOL and then accepted a dishonorable discharge to end his torture. Now he is speaking out to change the way military rape is handled. This is his story.

Oral history interview with Heath Phillips by Jason A. Higgins on June 12, 2018. This interview is part of the Incarcerated Veterans Oral History Project, with the support of the UMass Oral History Lab. In the interview, U.S. Navy veteran Heath Phillips discusses his early life growing up with a Vietnam veteran father; his motivations for joining the military at seventeen; recounts 10 months of sexual violence aboard the U.S.S. Butte; the impact of Military Sexual Trauma, PTSD, and an other-than-honorable discharge on his post-military life; incarceration and twenty years of alcoholism; his path toward recovery; and his advocacy for other survivors of sexual trauma. -Incarcerated Veterans Project

Related Links:
Uniform Betrayal: Rape in the Military (Documentary)
Heath’s Story of Surviving Military Sexual Assault
Military Rape Speech 6 by Congresswoman Jackie Speier
Rape in the Military, The Rest of the Story…
Military sexual assault victims break the silence
Service members choose AWOL over rape
Breaking the Silence: Men who are sexually assaulted in the military often find it difficult to report the crime, that’s one reason they rarely get justice.
Gillibrand Opening Statement at Senate Subcommittee Hearing Examining Impact of Military Sexual Assault, Links to PTSD and Suicides
Son, Men Don’t Get Raped
Sexual assault survivor addresses Soldiers of Combat Aviation Brigade
Command Highlights (April 2016): A Look at What the Army Commands Are Doing In Their SHARP Programs (FORSCOM)
Booted: Lack of Recourse for Wrongfully Discharged US Military Rape Survivors
Military Sexual Assault Victims Discharged After Filing Complaints
Derogatory discharge papers blight lives of military who report sexual assault
New Report Says Pentagon Not Doing Enough For Sexual Assault Victims
Derogatory Discharge Papers Blight Lives Of Military Who Report Sexual Assault
Military must do right by wrongly-discharged sexual assault victims, advocates say
Coffman Introduces Fairness for Veterans Act (Ensures veterans with PTSD receive due consideration in post-discharge appeals process)
Why the Navy is making a major change in its approach to PTSD
‘It savaged my life’: military sexual assault survivors fighting to become visible
Raising Awareness And Support For Male Victims Of Sexual Assault In The Military
Rep Nikki Tsongas & Rep Mike Turner Host Educational Caucus: Improving Treatment Resources for Male Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma (2016)
Navy Finally Listens to Sexual Assault Victim
More Vets Who Are Coping With PTSD From Sexual Assaults Get Honorable Discharges
More Vets Who Are Coping With PTSD From Sexual Assaults Get Honorable Discharges
Navy reverses administrative discharge for service member sexually assaulted decades ago
After nearly 29 years, Navy reverses ‘other than honorable’ discharge for sailor sexually assaulted by 6 shipmates
‘A sense of validation’: After nearly 30 years, U.S. Navy admits it ignored sailor’s sexual assault
He went AWOL after being sexually assaulted. After 30 years, the Navy finally believed him.
RAPE and SEXUAL ASSAULT are Dirty Little Secrets for the Military, Especially the United States Navy
NAVY veteran Heath Phillips, who survived sexual assault, speaks out
Heath Phillips discusses surviving military sexual trauma & respect
Heath Phillips discusses Surviving Military Sexual Trauma & Respect 2
Heath Phillips shares with Mike Domitrz about Military Sexual Trauma & Being a Survivor
Episode 107 – Talk with Heath Phillips | Oscar Mike Radio On Mission – Always (08/16/18)
Heath Phillips speaking at Fort Drum on sexual assault
Heath Phillips speaking at Syracuse University about sexual assault in the military
Heath Phillips Oral History Interview by Jason A. Higgins, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Heath Phillips on Talking about Trauma, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Heath Phillips Rehappening of Trauma, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Heath Phillips on Rape Culture and Silence in the Military (PAMLA18)
Heath Phillips on Military Injustice, Incarcerated Veterans Project
Sexual Assault Crisis in Military Still a Reality – Report

CCTV News: Jennifer Norris Discusses Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military (May 19, 2013)

Anchor Anand Naidoo and Jennifer Norris, a retired Air Force Sergeant, discuss sexual assault in the U.S. military. -CCTV News

Army Spouse Katherine Morris Found Dead in Car Near Mall; Cause of Death Initially Ruled Suicide But Further Investigation Suggests Homicide Motivated by Insurance Fraud (May 6, 2012)

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Katherine Morris

Katherine Morris, 22, was found dead in her car near the Arundel Mills Mall in Maryland on May 6, 2012. Katherine was a University of Maryland student and married to Army spouse, Isaac Goodwin, who was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. According to a website dedicated to Katherine Morris, she died from carbon monoxide poisoning from charcoal grills lit in her car. Katherine’s family questioned the ruling of suicide by the Army and the Anne Arundel County police department immediately and were eventually successful at getting some retired civilian detectives to look into their suspicions of homicide motivated by life insurance fraud. Interestingly, Anne Arundel County police department also had jurisdiction of the homicide investigation of Army soldier Karlyn Ramirez, who was murdered in 2015. Karlyn’s husband Maliek Kearney and his new girlfriend Doris Delgado face federal murder charges. Karlyn’s homicide is similar in motive to the theories Katherine’s family has about her suspicious death. Karlyn and Katherine both appear to have been targeted and became the victims of domestic violence and/or life insurance fraud. The true motivation behind the Karlyn Ramirez and Katherine Morris deaths is unknown at this time but given how many homicides occur in the military with the common motive of domestic violence and/or life insurance, the Katherine Morris case deserves a second look.

Three families have asked for similar law changes for victims of domestic violence in the military since 2011. Representative Bruce Braley introduced the Holley Lynn James Act on behalf of Fort Bragg Lt. Holley Wimunc who was murdered by her Marine husband John Wimunc in 2008. The bill was advocating for the removal of the Commander and the Chain of Command from the investigation and adjudication of felony crimes like domestic violence because of their inexperience with the modus operandi of offenders. Unfortunately the bill was never even considered and this bill may have had the power to prevent what happened to Katherine Morris, Michelle Miller, and Karlyn Ramirez. Michelle Miller’s family believes she was targeted by an Army recruiter at her Rockville, Maryland high school and became the victim of domestic violence and homicide, despite the Army’s ruling of a double suicide. As a result, Michelle’s family is advocating for Michelle’s Law, which is an effort to encourage Congress to pass a law that would try military abuse and murder cases in civilian court. Katherine’s family is currently advocating for the Katherine Morris Military Spouse Protection Act. All of these law proposals ask that the Chain of Command be removed from the investigation and adjudication of felony crimes because of their inexperience at handling these complex cases. Similar bills have also been introduced to Congress to include the Sexual Assault Training, Oversight, and Prevention Act and the Military Justice Improvement Act. The military needs experienced investigators to get to the bottom of the truth in an effort to prevent crime and save lives.

In the News:

Family of Katherine Morris wants Dept. of Justice to investigate death. -WMAR-2 News (August 10, 2015)

Related Links:
For Kathy’s Sake, Inc.
Obituary: Katherine Sarah “Kat” Morris
U.Md. student found dead in car near Arundel Mills Mall
Questions abound after student death
Fort Bragg soldier accused of fraud after wife’s suicide
Army investigates allegation soldier drove UMd. student to suicide
Retired officers to give Anne Arundel County cold cases new life
Retired detectives to review 2012 suicide near Arundel Mills
Police reopen probe of Rev. Morris’ daughter’s death
Police Launch Independent Review Into UMD Student’s Suicide Death
Police re-open ‘suicide’ case of wife who was heartbroken after she discovered ‘soldier husband only wed her for Army benefits and was sleeping with other women’
Mother of apparent suicide seeks answers
Marguerite Morris v. Prudential Insurance Company of America (2013)
NAACP seeks federal probe of 2012 death in Hanover
Anne Arundel County mom not convinced her daughter committed suicide, calls for DOJ investigation
Morris v. Goodwin (2014)
Mother’s Search for Answers in Daughter’s Death Leads to Shelter Closure
Anne Arundel Police Response to Freedom of Information Request
Mother seeks emails in daughter’s death investigation
When Katherine Morris, 22, died suddenly, police ruled it suicide, but her mother continues to investigate
Marguerite R. Morris, Personal Representative of the Estate of Katherine Sarah Morris v. Isaac Jerome Goodwin (2016)
Fort Bragg Army Nurse Lt Holley Wimunc Murdered by Marine Husband the Day After She Announced Divorce, John Wimunc Sentenced to Life in Prison (2008)
Evidence Reveals Army Reserve Recruiter Adam Arndt Murdered High School Student Michelle Miller & Then Killed Self, Army Investigators Claim Double Suicide (2013)
Army Pfc Karlyn Ramirez Found Shot to Death in Home, Army Sgt Maliek Kearney & Army Veteran Dolores Delgado Charged with Across State Lines Murder, Feds Prosecuting (2015)
Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance is a Common Motive for Murder
Family of Katherine Morris wants Dept. of Justice to investigate death
Army Specialist Isaac Goodwin allegedly marries for money, and his wife commits suicide
WMAR-2 News: Family of Katherine Morris wants Dept. of Justice to investigate death (August 10, 2015)