Study focuses on rape in military

Group says reports of assaults on troops have tripled recently

February 19, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

NEW YORK - Ten serial rapists are serving in the U.S. military and have sexually assaulted dozens of fellow soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, a watchdog group has charged.

And more than a year after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared "zero tolerance" for rape, the number of troops who claim to have been violated has nearly tripled, the Miles Foundation reported.

"This indicates to us that rape in the ranks continues to be a problem in the military," said Anita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Connecticut-based foundation. The nonprofit group assists service members who have been sexually assaulted.

Based on victim interviews, the group has identified 10 servicemen and a military contractor who allegedly each sexually assaulted from two to two dozen soldiers.

Sanchez said six of the suspects are in the Army, two are Marines, and one each are in the Navy and Air Force - and their superiors have been alerted, as has the contractor's boss.

"The Pentagon should know about all of them," she said.

The Defense Department, which recently bowed to congressional pressure and introduced sweeping policy changes for handling sexual assault of soldiers, did not return calls for comment about the findings.

Of the 307 reports of sexual assault received by the Miles Foundation from troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain, 104 cases have been reported to military authorities, Sanchez said.

"Four of the rape victims are men, and we believe the true number is higher," Sanchez said. "In the culture of the military, there is an enormous amount of shame."

Also, because of "don't ask, don't tell" rules, male victims are less likely to report an attack for fear of being labeled gay and getting drummed out of the service, Sanchez said.

But female victims also face roadblocks -in the United States and abroad - when they report a rape.

In an interview to air tomorrow on CBS' 60 Minutes, former Lt. Jennifer Dyer of the New Jersey National Guard said the Army treated her "like a criminal" when she reported being raped at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Given two weeks to recover, Dyer said, "I was told that if I didn't return on time, they would send MPs to my door and have me arrested. They stated that two weeks was enough time to recover."

But Dyer's alleged attacker was still on the base. So she went absent without leave and was later granted an honorable discharge.

The alleged attacker, who is married, insisted that the sex was consensual and that Dyer made up the rape story to get out of serving in Iraq. Last month, a military hearing officer said there was not enough evidence and recommended dropping the rape charge.

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