"Victim advocates, dedicated to protecting victims' rights, have been denied resources, forced off the base and unfairly dismissed"
ABC The Blotter -- June 27 2006
Over 500 Reports of Sexual Assault among U.S. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan
Scroll down to read a reply from the extremely courageous Susan N. Upchurch, raped in Germany by a US military colleague, together with her written submission to the congressional hearing on sexual assault and rape in the military
Tom Shine and Maddy Sauer Report:
Over 500 cases of sexual assault have been reported among U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan since the summer of 2002, according to the executive director of the Miles Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks sexual crimes in the military.
"The combat theater is illustrative of the hostility towards women in the U.S. Armed Forces," according to Christine Hansen, the executive director of the foundation. Hansen is testifying this afternoon before the House Government Reform Committee.
Hansen notes that survivors of sexual assault in the combat theater point to many issues that contribute to the hostile environment there for women in the military, including "lack of privacy to perform daily routines; insufficient lighting in and around the tents; isolation; existence of a sexually charged atmosphere; presence of pornography; and availability of condoms for male troops."
Hansen also points out that the wide availability of alcohol has not helped. Alcohol has been involved in 70 to 75 percent of the reported cases.
Services and advocate programs for the victims of sexual violence are also not getting the resources they need to operate effectively, says Hansen.
"Victim advocates, dedicated to protecting victims' rights, have been denied resources, forced off the base and unfairly dismissed," according to Hansen. She adds that victims are not entitled to the same protections as civilians and that they are unable to seek confidential counseling without the fear that counselors may be forced to turn over their records.
Sexual violence within the military has led to scandalous headlines, and the Department of Defense has attempted to address the issue via task forces, panels and more. Today's hearing focuses on whether or not the Department of Defense has addressed recommendations made by the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the military service academies.
June 27, 2006
From Susan N. Upchurch | Jun 27, 2006 2:28:28 PM
Below you will find a copy of a statement for the congressional hearing that is being held today on sexual assault and rape in the military. Good Morning America called me yesterday about doing an interview with them for the show. However, they dumped on me just like the military did.
Anyway, here is the written statement I submitted for the congressional hearing. It's only a small piece of what happened. Just because the perpetrator was sentenced it doesn't make it a success story because my mental and physical conditions is equally to blame not just on the offender but the military too.
Here is my written statement:
Deceitful and untrustworthy is how my colleagues and superiors described me for reporting a crime of sexual assault on 30 May 2002 and rape on 10 June 2002. I was only 10 days into my first duty station in Germany when the offender sexually assaulted me. 10 days after that the same offender raped me. "it's your fault", my command stated. "He done it because you look like his wife," as they laughed. "Why didn't you want to have sex with him when he is sooooooo... cute", laughing again. "Keep your mouth shut, there is too much red tape," the sergeant stated over and over again.
That's only a few words that I was harrassed with during my time at my post. I never heard of so many horrific statements that could be made to one person or about one person. It took 7 days after the incidents that I was finally took to CID. After a number of attempts at reporting these crimes, a Sergeant finally took me serious and reported the crimes up the chain of command. I was immediately sent to fire my weapon. The next morning I had to take a physical fitness test when I wasn't even healed from the physical problems from the rape. After returning to the barracks, I found that the command moved the perpetrator into the same building in which I lived. When I asked about it, I was told he wasn't a dangerous man. Yet, three months prior to assaulting me he had an account of simple assult consumattd by battery and disorderly conduct. It took a Surgeon to get him removed from the building in which I resided.
Next, the rapist, was placed to work in the gym-a place that he could've repeated another crime of rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and indecent assault very easily. He definitely did not need to be placed in an area where women's bodies were more exposed than usual while working out. It also caused me to lose my privilege of working out because he worked in there. I had to face this offender on a daily basis for four months.
Harrassment was from privates all the way up to Colonel's. When I learned about IG and what their careers were about, I turned to them for help. Not long after calling the IG, I was took into the First Sergeant's office and threatened and forced to say that I would never call IG again.
All of my rights as a victim of sexual assault and rape were violated numerous times. Even after the trial and when I was finally moved back to the U.S., I was threatened with obstruction of justice and perjury if I didn't quit trying to find out the perpetrators status in prison and why his military lawyer was calling all the individuals that I was working with.
I barely had enough strength to fight off the horrific events the command had put me through. I had to keep repeating the fact that I wanted to pursue charges against him. He confessed and should have been put into pre-trial confinement, however, he plead not guilty. One of the most disturbing acts was the fact that the legal team lost the preliminary hearing tape recorded testimony. I had to go through a second preliminary hearing in order to keep fighting to have him convicted. In the end, I came out strong during the trial. He was found guilty of rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and indecent assault. My military lawyer ask that he be sentenced to 15 years. He did receive 15 years, forfeiture of all pay, loss of rank, and a bad-conduct discharge. With a bad-conduct discharge he has the opportunity to get his discharge upgraded. He should have definitely received a dishonorable discharge.
Still, four years after the incidents (the sexual assault, rape, and revictimazation by the ARMY), I have to be in psychotherapy twice weekly. I also still have to see a psychiatrist once a month. I remain to have severe PTSD, major depressive episode, and self-mutilation. Why, you might ask-I see his face and hear his voice. However, I also see the faces and hear the voices of all of those who harrassed me. This is only a small portion of all the things I was put through because I reported a sexual assault and rape.
It is only and only in your hands to protect other victims of crimes from being treated in such a horrific way that I was. For those who do not follow the 7 Army Core Values and make sure they protect the victims, should get a stiff punishment. It is your power to employee victim advocates who are trained well enough to help the victim out instead of push them out of the way. You must create safe places that can be provided to victims. It is your duty to make all necessary changes to protect and treat victims with respect. You need to create and find a safe place that a victim can receive therapy when needed. While going through therapy, it is important that it be made private to protect the victims' privacy. It shouldn't be known to the whole post that a victim is getting therapy, just like the way that I was put out there for everyone to know I was raped and going to therapy.
It's not isolated incidents. Similar things are happening to the men and women who serve our country. They expect to be treated unfairly by an enemy, but not by someone wearing a U.S. military uniform, not their colleagues, nor their superiors. It will be a tremendous challenge for you to make necessary changes to protect our own men and women from our own military.
Those who are wounded in war have to live with those wounds for the rest of their lives. We, too, have to live with the wounds from being raped. The incident never fades and all the revictimazation from our military doesn't fade away either. The only good memories I have of the military is basic training and advanced individudal training-the things that most service members hate. There are no words for the horror I encountered for the rest of the period I had to stay in the military. Even when serving in the military, I had to seek support from those working outside of the military.
I had to be placed on Temporary Disabled Retired List because of the severity of the PTSD and depression. I currently receive a 100% rating from the Veteran Affairs because the PTSD, depression, and self-mutilation continue in my life. My life will forever be horrified by not only the perpetrator, but also the coleagues and superiors who I had to work with. It was nothing but pure revictamazation each day of my military career.
I ask that you please make necessary adjustments to protect our military women and men from being punished for reporting crimes. Victims of sexual assault and rape should feel comfortable enough that they can report the assaults without feeling they will be punished for keeping their loyalty, duty, respect, selfless serivce, honor, integrity, and personal courage. It is in your hands to protect our own from our own. Education can be a part of this plan, but other measures need to be taken to ensure that victims safety is priority. Anyone who violates a victims rights should be punished to the fullest. You must make this happen. Protect our own military personnel. You are the power to upholding victims' rights.
Susan N. Upchurch
803 Vance Street
Paragould, AR 72450