Massachusetts School of Law explored violent crime in the military with Jennifer Norris, Military Justice for All, and the impact it has on civilians too. Jennifer talked about her experiences with four different perpetrators within the first two years of her enlisted career, the reporting & adjudication process, and the retaliation that ensued and eventually ended a fifteen year career. Also discussed was the jurisdictional hurdles that arise with a transient population like the military. For example, Jennifer was not able to press charges against one perpetrator because he moved out of state after learning he was getting reported. Another perpetrator was active duty Air Force at Keesler Air Force Base, therefore a state National Guard commander did not have jurisdiction of a federal employee. And finally, although Jennifer was able to move forward with two other cases involving high ranking National Guard members with over eighteen years of service, unlike the civilian world, after the cases were adjudicated, they retired with full military retirement benefits and no public records.
Jennifer also shared that although the Department of Defense downplays violent crime in the military and sexual assault appears to be closely monitored by some female members of Congress, everything is not under control. The crime appears to be escalating. The military doesn’t just have a sexual assault issue, they have a domestic violence and homicide issue as well. They also have a pattern of ruling soldier’s deaths both stateside and overseas as suicides, training accidents, and illness despite families strongly protesting and evidence revealing otherwise. Domestic violence is more likely to lead to homicide and unfortunately the two issues have not been given the attention they deserve because until you do the research yourself and see how many families and communities have been impacted by the crimes, suspicious death, and homicide of a soldier or civilian, you wouldn’t know because Congress and the main stream media do not give it the attention it deserves. Homicide and independent investigations of all suspicious deaths should be given the highest priority not only because people have lost their lives and families deserve answers but because someone needs to be held accountable. We must prevent others from becoming victims of these crimes too.
Jennifer discussed the lasting impacts the crimes and retaliation had on her. Jennifer was empowered after doing all that she could do to protect others from getting harmed by the same people, but her squadron did not see it the same way. After the cases were adjudicated, Jennifer faced hostility from a couple of the perpetrator’s friends and her Chain of Command once she returned back to work. She eventually had to transfer to another squadron. It was the professional and personal retaliation that made her start feeling more intense feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. And unfortunately her next squadron wasn’t any more welcoming then the last. She was told shortly after arriving that ‘no female makes it in the satellite communications work center’ and that she was experiencing hostility from her new Chain of Command because the old squadron called and informed them she was a ‘troublemaker.’ The retaliation had a direct impact on her mental health and cemented an already traumatizing experience with further abuse, indifference, and judgement. By the time she got to her third squadron (almost ten years after the first attack), she learned that the Department of Veterans Affairs treated Post Traumatic Stress resulting from military sexual trauma.
After Jennifer informed her third squadron that she was getting help for the PTS at the Department of Veterans Affairs, she was immediately red flagged and asked to leave the squadron until she could produce a note from her doctor giving her permission to be at work. She did this and jumped through the other hoops asked of her in an attempt to save her career but lost confidentiality in the process. Jennifer walked away from her career in the end because she refused to release her VA records for a security clearance investigation. The entire experience not only opened her up to judgement again (simply because she asked for some counseling due to what someone else did) but she had to prove that she was ‘fit for duty’ while the perpetrators were enjoying full military retirement benefits. Jennifer chose a second chance at a civilian career when she refused to release her confidential VA records for her security clearance investigation because she wanted to ensure a future free of a tainted security clearance. It makes zero sense that someone who is a victim of crime be negatively impacted by the crimes of others in yet another way. The hypocrisy of the system is truly revealed when you look at how the perpetrators were let off the hook but the victim of crime loses their military career because they had the strength to first report and then eventually ask for help.
My sister passed away in 2014 on her way home from Afghanistan, a month before she was expected to return. We were never given closure, proof, info, paperwork to back up the cause of death, instead mom was basically told, we compensated you for her death, deal with it. I have since, vowed for my mom, myself, my oldest sis, and our now Angel, to fight for the truth into the death of my sis, and if need be, bring justice to those who may have had a hand into playing God. The unit that took over the events that led to my sis death, as I was point of contact after Divine Intervention set in and things didn’t go smoothly and as planned for her death, caught me at a weak moment while my sis was supposedly holding on to dear life (whom was probably already deceased) and gave me false hopes that they were trying to get plane tickets for myself and my siblings so therefore they needed my social security number. Not thinking the military was against their own at the time and thinking they are being sincere, I provided my social as I was just trying to get to my sister. Being said that, there is no doubt in my mind that false info has been tied into my name or social because when I try to reach out to someone for legal or any assistance in my sis case and they look my info up, they stop contacting me. Reason I say this, after I realized we would get nowhere with the Military for closure or proof, mom and I started sending request, questions, etc, to different media, military, etc, but as for me, after being interested in my situation and asking for more info, each person that I would finally put faith into helping, would stop contacting me when my hopes were finally raised, instead, our info would get pushed to a unit that had NOTHING to do with my sis, and answered to all our questions with the compensation line. Finally, I read about Jennifer Norris, who, just by reading her biography, her story of her struggles tugged at my heart, here was this AMAZING lady who had been dealt a horrible outcome to a horrible situation and instead of turning herself into a victim, she decided to turn herself into a warrior, a Godsent to someone like me, a HERO to those of us who lost our HERO. Though I was so distressed over all the dead ends I was pushed into from all the non sympathetic people mom and I reached out to, something in my heart pushed me to contact Jen. As I did, in the back of my mind, I prepared myself for another disappointment. Before I could even think negative, Jen responded. She was very sympathetic and very understanding that I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. From that moment on, Jen has been my rock, my assistor, my believer that I have every right to fight for the truth. At times she is complementing me about my courage to continue my fight and then I reassure her that the the courage comes from the faith she has in my fight. She then brought light to my sis situation, hoping maybe someone would have a heart and help my mom and myself and sis with some kind of info to the situation but instead she and I received disrespect and ridicule for asking well deserved answers to our questions. I went to her defense which caused fb friends from my sis unit to unfriend me, because, well, I dont know why, just to look even more guilty I guess, now that I actually had someone who believed in my sister enough to help me fight for truth. Jen has told me that I have, as well, helped her in different aspects of her fight, as to my reply, We are a match made from Heaven (my sis & God) but truthfully, I’m sure she has been much more of a blessing in my life then I have been in hers because she has given me her time, her contacts, her resources, and has added my sister onto her research for justice along with so many other soldiers who’s rights have been sent to their death beds and stripped from the able to fight for themselves. I don’t know where I would be right now if Jen hadn’t taken the time to respond to my letter when she did as she was my last cry for help before I gave up. Jen is a GREAT, STRONG person who truly does 100%, fill the shoes of a TRUE SOLDIER, who didn’t allow herself to become a victim but somehow managed to have the bravery and strength to use her situation and the disappointment from the military to turn into her into a FIGHTING LION and us her den of family members and or victims, to fight for the justice that our loved ones or victims deserve! ! I love Jen Norris as my heavenly sister and a Hero to my sis, y mom, and myself! !
This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. We will fight for Virginia together. We are stronger together.
Just want you to know, your work does not go unappreciated!! Thank you more then you know! ! God bless! !
I have no difficulty believing you. Your story is all too common. This is no way to treat a fellow American.
Dr. Mic Hunter (author of Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse In America’s Military)