By Sean Piccoli
When Anu Bhagwati, SFC ’89, was invited to testify before Congress this year about sexual violence in the U.S. military, it was a breakthrough in work she had begun a decade earlier, and under very different circumstances.
While serving as a Marine Corps captain at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in the early 2000s, Bhagwati filed a formal complaint of sexual misconduct against another officer. As she said last month — in televised testimony to a panel of U.S. senators — that initial decision to speak out cost her dearly:
“I was given a gag order … lived in fear of retaliation and violence from both the offender and my own chain of command, and then watched in horror as the offender was not only promoted but also given command of my company.”
Bhagwati left the Marine Corps in 2004 — “devastated,” she told Congress, “because I loved and still love the Marines.”
Today this alumnus of the School for Children is executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN). The organization aids members of the armed forces who have endured sexual discrimination, harassment, and violence including rape at the hands of their peers.
The best educations I received were given to me by Bank Street and the Marine Corps.
From Bank Street to Boot Camp
“Victims’ rights advocate” was not a role that Bhagwati had planned for; she was focused on her military career. But a strong concept of social justice that she had absorbed at Bank Street stayed with her as she rose through the Marine Corps ranks.
“I really stuck