Marine Corps Corporal Thae Ohu, a 27-year-old female, was the victim of a sexual attack by a fellow marine several years ago. The corporal, still on active duty, to this day suffers from PTSD as a result.
Ohu is now on the receiving end of military discipline due to her own behavior. She’s been locked away in a brig in Chesapeake, Virginia while her family and supporters plead with the Marine Corps to get her proper mental health care rather than pursuing the multiple charges they’ve brought against her. The primary charge? Attempted murder.
Prosecutors say Ohu finally snapped when she attacked her boyfriend, a fellow marine. In addition to the attempted murder charge, Ohu is charged with eight other violations of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. These include aggravated assault on an intimate partner, burglary, and communicating a threat.
Her former boyfriend, Michael Hinesley, asked officials not to follow through with the charges. He firmly believes what happened was the result of the service-related trauma she had previously experienced and is still haunted by.
“Thae has gone through serious turmoil, pain, and suffering since she was sexually assaulted by another Marine,” He wrote. “Taking care of victims of sexual violence is what we do as Marines and we don’t hang them out to dry. I don’t blame Thae for what she did because I know the reasons why. She needs help.”
Ohu’s family shared the story on social media. Not only was it viewed and shared thousands of times, but it also became the topic of discussion in many advocacy circles. All of the advocates agree on how this is a clear-cut case of a much larger structural issue concerning the treatment of sexual assault victims within the military.
A FB page, Justice For Thae Ohu, has attracted over 6,700 followers who agree with the advocates. Nearly $14,000 has been raised online to assist with her legal fees, and a group of protestors in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where Ohu was raised, carried signs and rallied on her behalf, demanding justice.
“The co-occurring legal and medical problems she faced made it hard to determine whether she broke the law or the system broke her first,” wrote Sherman Gillums Jr., a Marine veteran, and chief advocacy officer for AMVETS. Medical issues and legal issues can sometimes intertwine.
According to Ohu’s sister, Pan Phyu, who is an active-duty sailor, the two of them were born in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand. Once freed, the family migrated to the U.S., choosing to settle in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Both girls, upon coming of age, enlisted in the military.
She recalls her sister being sexually attacked in 2015 while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. How the assault was initially reported remains unclear, but in 2018 Ohu sent a letter to her senator letting him know she had previously informed her command of her PTSD diagnosis.
“I have continuously expressed my issues and I have mentioned my sexual assault to my leadership since,” Ohu wrote. “However, I did not receive the care from my Command that I needed and instead they put me in a more grieving and hostile working environment that was degrading my mental health treatments instead of improving it.”
The Marine Corps refuses to acknowledge its mishandling of the case. “It is inappropriate to publicly comment about sexual assault investigations,” officials blindly stated. “The Marine Corps takes allegations of sexual assault very seriously, conducting independent, thorough, and sensitive investigations of all alleged sexual assault incidents.”
Earlier this year, as Ohu’s condition had severely worsened, she made a suicide attempt. She then unsuccessfully pushed for a medical retirement to remove herself from the Corps, and all reminders of her trauma.
When she attacked her former boyfriend, Ohu had been taking a newly prescribed medication which could have resulted in her psychological break, according to her previous defense attorney.
A security video was taken of Ohu on the doorstep of Hinesley’s home which shows her opening the front door with a key. The video’s audio picked up Ohu screaming, “I’m gonna kill you.” It is then said that went to the kitchen where she grabbed a knife and repeatedly stabbed a closed-door with Hinesley on the other side.
She was taken to an inpatient care facility that very night but they only kept her a couple of days before releasing her with a restraining order against Hinesley. Ohu violated the agreement shortly thereafter when she broke into Hinelsley’s home, this time without a key.
The second time around cost her landing in the brig where she’s been twiddling her thumbs her time ever since. At one of her hearings, Ohus then-attorney Gerald Healy revealed her long history of mental health issues. Surprisingly, Ohus history goes back prior to her enlistment. In fact, because of them, she required a special waiver to even signup to be a Marine. But to no avail, she remains behind bars.
“Thae is not getting the care she needs. … it just keeps getting worse,” her sister Phyu voiced in an Email. “This is detrimental to her mental health, which has lasting affects(sic) not only on her but her whole family. We are all struggling.” She said her sister is lonely and being kept isolated from the other prisoners.
At this point, no one is certain where or how the case will end up, but one thing is for certain. PTSD is the real McCoy and it affects people in many ways. Specific “triggers” can cause someone to snap for what may appear to others as for no specific reason. So this one remains in the hands of the Marine Corps to make the right and final decision. When it’s all said and done, we trust they will.
For right now though, at least for Ohu, her family, and her many advocates, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.