Rape not taken seriously in military?

May 7, 2012 2:59:38 PM PDT
In the new barracks at Fort Bragg in March 2011, a Johnston County woman claims she was raped by a fellow soldier.

"He proceeded to push me against the bed and rape me and assault me," recalled the woman who ABC11 is not identifying because of the nature of the alleged crime. "I had large bruises and bite marks all over my neck and my chest that lasted for a while."

The woman said she was in shock for a few days after the assault, but then confided in a military friend who encouraged her to report the rape to The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command - also known as CID - at Fort Bragg, which she did.

"He promised me he would do as much as he could to help me," said the woman.

But the woman said she got little help, especially once the prosecutor handling her case was deployed. Then, she said the case was handed off to two other military prosecutors who hadn't even read her file before a formal hearing.

"I just felt like I was being passed around to whoever was available and not anyone who cared about the case," she offered.

She said prosecutors suddenly agreed to a plea agreement without consulting her.

"His original charges were for rape, sodomy, assault, and a drug charge. And, he pleaded guilty to assault and the drug charge with the addition of no dishonorable discharge," the woman recalled.

The woman said she felt let down by the military.

"I was mortified," she offered.

The victim said she felt mortified because her alleged attacker got to stay in the military. While his rank was dropped to the lowest enlisted, he did not have to do - what she considered - hard time or register as a sex offender.

Instead, the I-Team learned the man was serving a 90-day sentence in military confinement and could be released as early as the end of May.

The Johnston County woman is not the only woman who spoke with ABC11. More than 20 years after she was allegedly attacked at Fort Bragg, another woman said she still suffers from night terrors, anxiety and depression.

"I have woken up screaming," said the woman who ABC11 is calling "Lee."

Lee was an ROTC cadet - still in college - but training at Ft. Bragg in the summer of 1989 when she said she was raped by a senior enlisted soldier.

"I vaguely remember him pushing me back, and I hit my head, and I stepped outside my body and I watched everything," she recalled.

Lee said she didn't report the crime. Instead, staying silent for years, afraid she'd be blamed or even punished herself.

"If you do tell, you're blackballed," she offered.

Lee explained that's something she's seen happen to other female service members throughout her military career.

It's an issue addressed by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta in April when he announced there were more than 3,000 sexual assaults reported in 2011 involving service members. The number was up slightly from the year before.

But what was also up is the number of sexual assault claims the led to charges. It rose from just 30 percent on 2007 to more than 60 percent in 2011.

Lee told ABC11 she thinks there's a culture in the military that makes sexual violence acceptable.

"There's always talk that if you're captured by the enemy, you can expect that you will be raped and tortured," Lee explained. "I didn't get a whole lot of training when what happens when it's soldier on soldier."

Secretary Panetta said one of his top priorities is to not only reduce and prevent sexual assault, but to "make victims of sexual assault feel secure enough to report this crime without fear of retribution or harm to their career."

More money and resources are also being committed to investigations of assaults and support programs for victims.

While the new efforts won't help Lee - or the rape survivor in Johnston County - they both said they hope that by breaking their silence, they're helping break the chain of violence.

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