“You figure out how to turn the guy off, and become one of the guys,” she said. “That’s your safety mechanism.”
But that safety mechanism failed. Just weeks into her new assignment, her squad leader began making unwanted sexual comments. Then it turned physical when he tried to force himself on her. She was afraid to report it, tried to forget it, but the assault haunted her. In a completely unrelated incident when she was out one night, someone she knew from another base raped her.
“The betrayal issues to this day are still pretty deep,” she said. “You know, I was like, ‘I’m willing to give my life for
this guy next to me but how do I know that he’s not going to hurt me?'”
Jessica’s story is not unique. One in three female soldiers will experience sexual assault while serving in the military, compared to one in six women in the civilian world. The Pentagon released a disturbing report Tuesday on sexual abuse in the military, saying that more than 2,900 sexual assaults were reported last year, up nearly 9 percent from the year before. Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved rape or aggravated assault.
Ashley Barnes-Lambert, 18, US Army, was murdered by her husband, Khaleefa Lambert, also an Army soldier, on March 7, 2009. Ashley was home on leave from Afghanistan and was in the process of filing for divorce. Lambert drove up from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, kidnapped Ashley at knife point from her hotel room in Clarksville, Tennessee, and stabbed her to death in the parking lot of the hotel. The State of Tennessee sought the death penalty in this case but Lambert’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the death penalty notice. Lambert was charged with two counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of first degree/felony murder. A jury found Khaleefa Lambert guilty and he was given a life sentence in prison with eligibility for parole.