Rape within the U.S. Military: 1 in 3 women service members sexually assaulted at least once

Posted on November 29, 2009

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By Ann Wright, New York Times OpEd News

Journalists Pascale Bourgaux and Mercedes Gallego in their trips to Iraq as war correspondents were stunned to hear from military women in Iraq that they should be very careful working in military units due to sexual assault and rape.

When they left Iraq they decided to investigate the issue of rape in the U.S. military. In 2007, they filmed the stories of four military women who had been raped and made a documentary, “Rape in the Ranks: The Enemy Within.” The documentary was shown for the first time in the United States on October 26 at the New York Independent Film Festival.

Tina Priest was raped in Iraq and then found dead of a gunshot in her dormitory room. The U.S. Army claims Tina committed suicide 11 days after she was raped. The mother and sister of Tina Priest don’t believe Tina committed suicide. The documentary captures remarkable interactions with them and military officers from Fort Hood who arrive at their doorstep. Tina’s rapist was never prosecuted.

Jessica Kenyon was raped twice during her one year career in the US Army, once in basic training and once in Korea. She is now a counselor (http://www.militarysexualtrauma.org) for other veterans who have been raped—women and men. Jessica’s rapists were never prosecuted.

Suzanne Swift was raped repeatedly by her squad leader while they were in Iraq. She was court-martialed for refusing to go back to Iraq with the unit in which the rapist still served. The rapist was never prosecuted, returned to Iraq as a private security contractor and later fired from a position with a law enforcement agency in the Seattle area. Suzanne is now out of the military and in college.

Stephanie (last name not disclosed), was raped at Fort Lewis, Washington. Like the majority of women who have been raped in the military, she never reported it as she thought no one would believe her as the rapist was a senior officer. Stephanie and her husband both served in Iraq. Her husband committed suicide after his return from Iraq. Stephanie speaks frequently on the issue of military suicides. [more]

a. Please click here to download the United States General Accountability Office on the Military’s handling of sexual assaults.
b. Please download the Pentagon’s 2006 report on gender relations that says that more than three quarters of sexual assault victims in the military do not report the abuse.

Rape In the U.S. Military

Lucinda Marshall, LA Times

Unfortunately, this mind-set is consistent with the Pentagon’s very poor record of prosecuting sexual assault and rape within the ranks while at the same time disregarding and further victimizing those who report these heinous crimes. To put these cases in perspective, there were 2,947 reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2006, an increase in reports of 24% over 2005. However, very few of these cases tend to be prosecuted. A Pentagon report [PDF] in March 2007 found that more than half of the investigations dating back to 2004 resulted in no action. When action was taken, only one third of the cases resulted in courts-martial.

Indeed, in many cases, the military seems more intent on intimidating and harassing the victims than investigating and prosecuting the charges. In 2004, after Lt. Jennifer Dyer reported being raped by a fellow officer at Camp Shelby, Miss., she said she was held in seclusion for three days, read her Miranda rights and threatened with criminal prosecution for filing a false report. After finally being given two weeks leave, she was threatened with prosecution for being AWOL when she would not report for duty to the same location where the man she had accused — who was later acquitted on assault charges — was still posted.

Lance Cpl. Sally Griffiths was also accused of lying after she reported being raped by a fellow Marine while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. It wasn’t until she got access to her case file and found a statement by the Marine that confirmed her story that she was able to obtain the discharge she sought. The Marine she accused was never prosecuted. He continued to serve in the military and was promoted several times.

After Army Spc. Suzanne Swift went AWOL instead of staying in the same unit as the soldiers who she accused of sexually harassing her, the Army court-martialed her when she refused a deal that would have forced her to remain in the military and sign a statement saying she had not been raped.

More recently, there have been the well-publicized cases of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was murdered after accusing another Marine of rape, and Jamie Leigh Jones, who says that she was gang-raped while working for Halliburton/KBR in Iraq. Jones claims that after she reported her rape, the company put her in a shipping container and warned her that she would lose her job if she left Iraq for medical treatment. The rape kit collected by military medical personnel was lost after it was turned over to Halliburton/KBR. The Pentagon has refused to investigate or to testify before Congress. Please click here to read the remainder of this story.

Recruiter Sex Scandal: Military Recruiters raping Potential Teen Enlistees

Please click here to download the complete rebort on military recruiters’ sexual abuse.

Sexual Abuse by Military Recruiters

Amy S. Clark, CBS News
CBS/AP) More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams.

A six-month Associated Press investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.

“This should never be allowed to happen,” said one 18-year-old victim. “The recruiter had all the power. He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him.”

Barry Vogel represents a young woman who wanted to become a Marine, CBS News correspondent Bianca Solorzano reports. But now she’s suing the Marines.

“He said to her, outright, if you want to join the Marines, you have to have sex with me,” Vogel said. “She was a virgin. She was 17 years old.”

The ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services panel has responded to the investigation, saying “outrageous” misconduct by military recruiters needs tougher penalties.

At least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005, according to records obtained by the AP under dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests. That’s significantly more than the handful of cases disclosed in the past decade.

The AP also found:

•The Army, which accounts for almost half of the military, has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.

•Most recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian prosecutions are rare.

•The increase in sexual misconduct incidents is consistent with overall recruiter wrongdoing, which has increased from just over 400 cases in 2004 to 630 cases in 2005, according to a General Accounting Office report released this week. [more]

Recruiter accused of sexual assaults against six women

James A. Gillaspy and Dan McFeely, Indianapolis Star

[NOBLESVILLE, Ind.] – Investigators say he picked out teens and young women with backgrounds that made them vulnerable to authority. As a military recruiter, he had access to personal information, making the quest easier.

Indiana National Guard Sgt. Eric P. Vetesy, 36, Westfield, was jailed Monday, accused of sexually assaulting six female recruits – most of them Noblesville High School students – he met during his 18 months as a full-time recruiter. Hamilton County investigators said Monday he is accused of raping at least one recruit.

Nationwide, military recruiters reportedly have been linked to at least a half-dozen sexual assault during the past few years, since the creation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This broad education law requires, among other things, that high schools give military recruiters greater access to students.

The 31-count indictment filed in Hamilton Superior Court implicates Vetesy in a pattern of sexual misconduct during a period from May 2002 to November 2003. Authorities said the incidents occurred after his assignment as a recruiter in August 2001.

The six women identified in the indictment as his victims ranged in age from 17 to 21 at the time of the alleged assaults. The Star generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

“These were very young women who are being recruited out of high school classes,” said Hamilton County Prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp. [more]

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