Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and military recruiting abuse survivor seeks redress

US Navy veteran Annette “Lavender” Gunderson unjustly denied VA health care

Media Contact: For Lavender Gunderson and/or her attorney Mr. James Branum, please leave a message with Steph Atkinson of Courage to Resist at 510-488-3559, or email

Annette “Lavender” Gunderson enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 17 in Spring of 2018. Currently of Bend, Oregon, Ms. Gunderson grew up in Florida and was motivated to become a Search and Rescue Swimmer.

While waiting to report for military basic training, her military recruiter, 26-year-old Petty Officer Trace Oliver Harris, groomed and sexually assaulted Ms. Gunderson over the course of eight months. Mr. Harris knew that Ms. Gunderson was a minor, as he witnessed her mother sign the required permission to enlist prior to 18-years of age.

After being instructed by military authorities of the Portland Naval Command to not report that she had been sexually assaulted by Mr. Harris, Ms. Gunderson eventually proceeded to basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes, north of Chicago.

During the course of her training, she was injured multiple times, exasperated by the stress of keeping the secret of her recent assault. Ms. Gunderson reported the rape by her recruiter to her training command. Eventually, Mr. Harris was convicted of felony coercion and reckless endangering of a minor and incarcerated. He was later discharged from the Navy.

However, Navy superiors rejected her account, and medically discharged her on pretext of a “preexisting borderline personality disorder”. Although she was in the military’s Delayed Entry Program (DEP) when she was raped, she did not qualify for assistance from the military’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office as she was not yet on payroll.

Ms. Gunderson explains that she has been diagnosed with Post Trauma Stress (PTSD) due to her ordeal. She wholeheartedly rejects the military’s borderline personality discharge basis, and declares this came in retaliation for reporting the crimes committed against her. Due to her discharge classification, she is ineligible for any physical or mental health treatment from Veterans Affairs (VA).

Today, Ms. Gunderson continues to struggle with PTSD as a result of Military Sexual Trauma (MST). With the assistance of her “GI Rights” attorney, Mr. James Branum of Oklahoma City, Ms. Gunderson will make her case for a discharge upgrade. Such an upgrade would allow her to access VA services to mitigate her MST/PTSD, and secondary physical injuries, directly connected to her military service.

Ms. Gunderson is adamant that military recruiters should not be given unfettered access to minors online and in our public schools.

News: Military recruiter Trace Oliver Harris sentenced
Bend Bulletin, May 2020

Video: Annette “Lavender” Gunderson in conversation with veteran advocate
Courage to Resist, September 2023