<\body> Stories in America: Army Appoints a Colonel to Investigate Sex Abuse Allegations

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Army Appoints a Colonel to Investigate Sex Abuse Allegations

The Army has appointed a colonel to investigate Spec. Suzanne Swift's allegations that three sergeants in her chain of command propositioned her for sex almost from the moment her unit left for Iraq, according to the Seattle P-I. Swift was raped by her immediate supervisor in Iraq, who is now a private contractor, according to her lawyer, Larry Hildes:
Swift's mother, Sara Rich, and her lawyer, Larry Hildes, who spoke at a news conference on her behalf at University Lutheran Church in Seattle on Tuesday, called the outside investigator a positive development.

"It's a very good sign they are doing this, investigating the chain of command and her abuses," said Hilde, of Bellingham, a member of the National Lawyer's Guild task force on military law.

Mental pressures on Swift remained a concern, however, Rich said.

"She has military sexual trauma" stemming from the alleged sex crimes, Rich said, "on top of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder" from serving in the war zone from March 2004 to February 2005.

"I want her to have the health and treatment she deserves, and I want her to have an honorable discharge" with full medical and veterans benefits, Rich said.

"My daughter was seeing a psychologist in Eugene every week. She needs that person there so she doesn't have to be retelling everything and reliving it to a new psychologist," Rich said.

"What is happening now is retraumatizing her again," Rich said. "I want her released to convalesce."
Unfortunately, most women don't report sexual harassment and rape in the military because they fear they not only will be ostracized, but that no one will believe them. Suzanne Swift is not alone. Hopefully her actions will give others the courage to speak out:
A 2005 special report by The Sacramento Bee shed light on the plight of military women. The report cited Defense Department figures showing that from August 2002 to October 2004, 118 cases of sexual assault on military personnel had been reported in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. During that same span, the non-profit Miles Foundation says it was contacted by 258 people who say they were victims of assault in the combat theater, The Bee said.

Also, the paper cited a Department of Veterans Affairs study that found nearly three out of four military women who said they had been assaulted did not tell their commanding officer.

The volume of women who have faced sexual harassment short of assault is believed to be vast -- and poorly documented.

"We've opened a can of worms," says Swift's mother, Sara Rich. "Women in the military are suffering."


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