Former Marine speaks out over alleged sexual assault and mistreatment by superiors

Thae Ohu contends she was never given support for her trauma.

December 15, 2023, 6:20 AM

Thae Ohu enlisted in the Marines on April 22, 2013. With determination and grit, she quickly rose through the ranks to become a Marine sergeant. Today, she's leading others on a different battlefield.

In 2015, Ohu says she was sexually assaulted by a superior. After reporting this charge to her command in 2018, instead of investigating the alleged assault, Ohu says the military began to medically retire her. This alleged retaliation and lack of help from the military is what Thae says led to a downward mental health spiral.

The Burmese immigrant said that she never felt any support from the military during her trauma, and now she's teaming up with others who have similar experiences to push Congress to take action.

"I'm a survivor, I'm a fighter, and, most importantly, I am a veteran still," Ohu told ABC News.

PHOTO: Former Marine Thae Ohu speaks during a rally to raise awareness of violence against female soldiers.
Former Marine Thae Ohu speaks during a rally to raise awareness of violence against female soldiers.
ABC News

She filed an unrestricted report, which requires the military to open an investigation, of her 2015 assault in 2018 to the Department of Defense and said there was no investigation. This led Ohu to report her alleged assault a second time.

Her military attorney, Capt. Garrett J. Sweeney, said the department mishandled her unrestricted report and said, "The Sexual Assault Disposition Report acknowledges that the command failed to immediately report."

The Marines eventually initiated a medical retirement for Ohu during this investigation, a move she alleges was retaliation after her allegation of the assault. In 2020, as the process was still playing out, Ohu said she suffered a post-traumatic stress episode where she said she had a flashback to her assault. During the episode, Ohu said she attacked her then-partner. Police responded to the 911 call and arrested her for a class-1 misdemeanor.

"I just remembered stabbing at the door, wanting to just hurt myself, hurt somebody," she said.

PHOTO: Former Marine Thae Ohu speaks with ABC News Live.
Former Marine Thae Ohu speaks with ABC News Live.
ABC News

She says she was quickly released from custody. Not long after her release, she says she was given a mental health questionnaire and that local officers told her she needed help.

One week after her release, she spoke to her partner, who was involved in the altercation she was arrested for. This violated a Military Protective Order that was in place at the time.

During that same week, Ohu checked herself into a mental health facility, but while receiving care she was picked up by the Marines and charged with attempted murder, though her partner never pressed charges.

Ohu was placed in a military brig in solitary confinement, with her commanders contending that she violated the military protective order against her former partner when she tried to contact him.

Although Marine confinement procedures state that "brig staff will not honor confinement physicals indicating suicide risk,” and those with mental health conditions “will be referred to an emergency room or mental health department," Ohu said she was kept in the brig, or military prison, for 328 days.

She says that during this time she struggled in solitary confinement, having multiple suicide attempts and receiving very little mental health support, according to a letter provided by Ohu’s military attorney. Some of her mental health episodes were recorded on video by a surveillance camera in her cell.

"I remembered I wasn't allowed to wash my hands because there's no, there's no sink," Ohu said. "It looks crazy because I'm rocking back and forth and I'm naked and I have nothing but a piece of underwear on. But they watched me. These people did nothing. I'm literally going deranged in a cell, and I'm having this breakdown, and they're doing nothing."

Maj. Jim Stenger, a spokesman for the Marines, provided the following statement regarding her overall treatment: “All legal matters surrounding this case were adjudicated according to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. We have no further comment on the activities of a private citizen."

Eventually, Ohu took a plea deal to get out of the brig. For taking the plea deal, she received a bad conduct discharge, making her ineligible for Veterans Affairs benefits.

The judge that oversaw Ohu’s case wrote a letter saying “Corporal Ohu was held accountable through a court-martial conviction.” and recommending that “the Department of Veterans Affairs approve any future requests for mental disorder treatment.”

Lindsey Knapp, an attorney and executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Combat Sexual Assault, told ABC News Live that Ohu's haunting ordeal is commonplace among soldiers who have survived similar traumas.

"Our service members are more likely to be sexually assaulted than they are to be shot or even wounded by the enemy. They're just simply not safe to serve," Knapp said.

Ohu has taken part in Combat Sexual Assault events in Washington, D.C., that have tried to raise awareness about injustices within the military.

"I think this is going to show the American people that we've given the military too many chances for them to take it upon themselves to correct the wrongs," Ohu said.

Their advocacy and rise in calls for government response following other military assaults prompted action.

PHOTO: Former Marine Thae Ohu meets with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Former Marine Thae Ohu meets with U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
ABC News

In 2021, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., led efforts to pass the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act. The law, which was prompted by Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen's murder, removed a commander from the decision-making process of whether or not to move forward with a prosecution.

"Commanders get the right to choose the judge, the jury, the prosecutor, and the offense council. So imagine you've been accused of something and the decision maker is biased; you have no civil liberties," Gillibrand said in a news conference in 2021.

Thae Ohu met with Sen. Gillibrand in April 2022 along with other families seeking answers. After this meeting, Knapp, Ohu's attorney, said Sen. Gillibrand helped Ohu get access to some VA benefits back.

"People with mental health issues are being discharged, who asked to be discharged and have medical disabilities. It's a huge problem," the senator said. "So I'm going to dig deep and figure out how to fix each of these problems."

PHOTO: Former Marine Thae Ohu attends a rally with advocates Lindsey Knapp and Amy Braley Franck.
Former Marine Thae Ohu attends a rally with advocates Lindsey Knapp and Amy Braley Franck.
ABC News

In the meantime, Ohu said she will continue to speak out against sexual violence against women in the military and be a support for those who need it.

"I believe that everything that has happened to my brothers and sisters that are not here today, …because there is a systemic issue. But instead of speaking on the emotions, I think the American people need to know the facts," she said at a Washington, D.C., rally this year.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you or a loved one needs support concerning sexual abuse and assault, please find more resources at

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