WASHINGTON — Ruth Moore was in Washington County, Maine on Tuesday — not Washington, D.C. — when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill bearing her name.

But Moore was watching C-SPAN as the House debated a bill intended to help veterans who, like herself, still bear the emotional or physical scars of being sexually assaulted while serving in the military.

“I was crying,” Moore said, recalling the telephone call she received from Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, moments after the House passed the bill on a voice vote. “Justice is finally coming together.”

Moore was a 19-year-old barely out of Navy boot camp when she was raped by a superior officer while stationed in the Azores in the 1980s. She reported the attack to a chaplain. But instead of receiving help from the command structure, she says she was raped again by the same man in retaliation.

Her attacker was never prosecuted and Moore was eventually honorably discharged from the Navy. She said she was never properly treated for the assaults and suffered for decades with emotional and physical problems — including severe depression and panic attacks — that prevented her from keeping a steady job.

Moore struggled for years to qualify for disability benefits from the Department of Veteran’s Affairs because her medical records were incomplete — an all-too-common occurrence for sexual assault victims, advocacy groups insist. With the help of veteran’s service organizations and a VA military sexual trauma unit, she was eventually granted partial disability benefits.


At the time Moore approached Pingree about the issue she had never told her story publicly. But two years later Moore has helped put a face on an issue that Pingree and organizations such as Service Women’s Action Network and Protect Our Defenders say affects scores of veterans.

“There are thousands and thousands of Ruth Moores out there who have been fighting for their benefits for years or even for decades,” Pingree said Tuesday on the House floor. “As survivors of sexual assault, they have suffered and sacrificed enough. We can make the process of getting benefits they are owed a little bit simpler.”

Moore, who lives with her husband and daughter in Milbridge, said she is pleased to have helped bring attention to the issue. Even as she was watching the House debate, Moore was also tuned into a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting where the top officials from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard were answering questions on the military sexual assault issue.

“They are starting to be held accountable,” Moore said.

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