How do we stop the retaliation from happening so victims of crimes in the military feel safe to report?

Even if you do go forward with a case and it’s adjudicated in your favor, it’s the retaliation that kicks our ass and de-rails our careers. Why is this happening? If you wonder why some who have been assaulted have severe PTSD, it’s the retaliation compounding the original trauma. And if you don’t report and try and soldier on, it catches up with you anyways in the form of behavioral issues and suicidal ideation. How do we stop the retaliation in the military from happening so victims of crimes feel safe to report?

Related Links:
Home Base Veteran Story: Jennifer & Lee Norris
Personal Story and Testimony of TSgt. Jennifer Norris, US Air Force Retired, Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (2013)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
What Happens When a Rape is Reported in the Military?

Tracking Military Sex Offenders Prevents Crime


If someone reports a crime to a police department, even if the person is not prosecuted, there is still a record of the complaint. This is not happening in the military because the Commander does not have access to law enforcement databases. So if the person was accused before in the military, the Commander has no way of knowing. And they are not entering data into the system if they are informed of a complaint. We are losing valuable data if the person is not prosecuted for the crime. The military currently prosecutes less then 10% of complaints.

If information was processed like in the civilian world, we quite possibly could prevent a rape or sexual assault. It could help establish a pattern even if one of the cases didn’t have enough evidence to prosecute. If the military had multiple complaints against one person then they would have a better chance at prosecution.

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Loopholes in the Military Justice System

Article 92 UCMJ


  • Focus on victim “Don’t get raped”
  • Lack of focus on MO of predators
  • No deterrents or stiff punishments for violent crimes
  • No database to track predators & prevent crimes
  • Lack of punishment/accountability for those who retaliate
  • Empowerment/Leadership/Bystander Intervention


  • Moral waivers, waivers in general
  • No mental health pre-assessment
  • History of recruits with felony charges
  • Predators that flock to positions of trust
  • Autonomy in position, ability to isolate

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Prevent Sexual Assault, Rape, Suicide, and Murder in the Military

Military Sexual Assault

When I got involved in the ‘movement’ to end violence in the military, it was after serving fourteen years in the military. I went from one mission to another, and much like the military the purpose was clearly defined but those in charge swayed greatly from what was in writing. No matter what the job is whether it be in the military or in a movement, you need those in charge to be loyal to those who they are fighting for. Much like Community Planning, you need your ‘customer’ to have buy-in. Who are we fighting for? Our active duty military ultimately so we could prevent them from becoming disabled veterans.

I could have just walked away from the military and moved on with a happy, healthy life living with PTSD and on a fixed income BUT that is not who I am which is exactly what my point is. I reported violent crimes to prevent what happened to me from happening to anyone else. I stepped forward and spoke out publicly to do the same. In the meantime, we had all kinds of competing issues knocking us down or drowning us out. For example, despite being committed to preventing rape in the military, others were committed to promoting themselves, becoming famous, or maybe even ensuring women have access to the most dangerous job in America: combat.

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VOR America: Jennifer Norris Discusses Sexual Misconduct in the Military (2014)

The Real News: Senate Unanimously Passes Sexual Assault Bill, But What Will it Change? (2014)

Jennifer Norris: Senate bill will still keep military sexual abuse cases within the chain of command of the military, leaving victims vulnerable to retaliation

Senator Collins speaks in support of efforts to address military sexual assault

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins spoke on the Senate floor today in strong support of legislation coming before the Senate that would address the crisis of sexual assault in the military.

“Since 2004, I have been sounding the alarm over the military’s ineffective response to the growing crisis of sexual assault in the military, including the need to ensure appropriate punishment for the perpetrators, to provide adequate care for the survivors of such reprehensible crimes, and to change the culture across the military so that sexual assault is unthinkable,” said Senator Collins, who first raised this issue during an Armed Services Committee hearing ten years ago.

In her remarks on the Senate floor, she singled out for praise the courage of two Mainers who have come forward to tell their stories.

“I also want to acknowledge the courage and conviction of Jennifer Norris and Ruth Moore – two Mainers who were sexually assaulted while serving and have made it their mission to change the broken system that does not put victims first. Through their advocacy, they have helped to shine a light on this crisis and deserve our gratitude.”

The Military Justice Improvement Act Helps Guarantee Constitutional Rights for All (2013)


I support the Military Justice Improvement Act for a number of reasons but first and foremost because it will provide a safe place for survivors to report. And if survivors can report, we can prevent others from becoming victims of these same criminals. The whole premise behind this law is to remove the gatekeepers (Commander and Chain of Command). Not because they all are incapable and incompetent of doing the right thing but because they are trained to be warriors not police, detectives, and prosecutors. Therefore, they can quite potentially hurt a case by meddling in it.

The Commander may know both parties and cannot be impartial in this case. Therefore, we need to treat all cases as if they are worst case scenario so that our response is uniform and consistent. This law is only the first of many steps that need to be taken in order to ensure a fair process for both the victim and the accused. No one wants special rights; no one wants bias in the process.  As a matter of fact, we are making the military’s response to violent crime similar to that of the civilian system. For example, would you report a crime to your boss?  No. You would report a crime to the police, a rape crisis center, etc.

Since not all bases have legal and support services available to them, the next logical step is to turn to the Judge Advocate General, who is more of a legal professional then the Commander. Commanders are not trained to assist traumatized victims, conduct investigations, or study the modus operandi of predators. Most prosecutors are schooled in these techniques automatically just because of their legal training. The ideal scenario would include one place to call or go to assist them with the process. We can’t do this until they report. The SARC or SAPRO can act as a support system but only if they have a supportive Command.  Therefore, we need to guarantee a support system that will review the situation from an objective point of view. The good soldier defense and how long you have served should not determine your credibility.

If you don’t believe the military has a reporting problem, then you don’t know the numbers.  The numbers are staggering and illusive.  The 26,300 troops that the Department of Defense reports are sexual assaulted per year does not include the military service academies, the Coast Guard, or sexual harassment cases.  Unfortunately, the Department of Defense is still referring sexual harassment cases to the Equal Employment Opportunity office, which is a Commander’s program. Therefore once again, if the EEO representative is not supported by the Commander then they cannot help you. Of the 26,300 estimated troops, only 3,374 reported the crimes perpetrated against them.  Sixty-two percent of those that did not report the crime did not report because of fear of retaliation and the impact on their career, and rightly so.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults in the Military

AlcoholTime to learn more about drug facilitated sexual assaults since they seem to be so prevalent in the US military. Not only did I personally go through this kind of chemical restraint as a new recruit in the Air National Guard but in my work as a victim advocate, I have seen the same modus operandi used over and over by enemies within the ranks.  These very skilled perpetrators are using alcohol and illegal drugs to create an opportunity or carry out a premeditated plan to take control of their victim.  As a result of going through the experience of being drugged, I can tell you that because I never thought I would be a victim of a crime like this, I had a hard time accepting that it happened. I was stunned that someone was able to overpower me either physically or through the use of illicit drugs. I never imagined that others would use a drug or alcohol as a weapon to facilitate the crime. It is an insidious form of violence and it’s time to call it what it actually is: Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults.

Drug facilitated assault: when drugs or alcohol are used to compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity. In addition, drugs and alcohol are often used in order to minimize the resistance and memory of the victim of a sexual assault.

According to RAINN, “Alcohol remains the most commonly used chemical in crimes of sexual assault, but there are also substances being used by perpetrators including: Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, etc.” Perpetrators will often groom the victim so that they can set up the environment to use the alcohol or drugs to incapacitate their victims.  Grooming involves the process of attempting to set up or stage individuals for sexual abuse by using a variety of methods to promote trust. Offenders who are strangers to the survivor as well as offenders who are family or known to the survivor will use grooming behaviors. Grooming will often build trust between offenders and other people (the survivor, caretakers of the survivor, etc.) to break down defenses, and give offenders easier access to others (Help in Healing, A Training Guide for Advocates).

Diminished capacity exists when an individual does not have the capacity to consent. Reasons for this inability to consent include, but are not limited to: sleeping, drugged, passed out, unconscious, mentally incapacitated, etc. It is important to understand diminished capacity because oftentimes victims of sexual assault in these situations blame themselves because they drank, did drugs, etc. It is essential to emphasize that it is not his or her fault, that the aggressor is the one who took advantage of his or her diminished capacity. Some of the drugs used to facilitate the drug induced sexual assault include Rohypnol, GHB, GBL, Benzodiazepines, Ketamine, and Ecstasy. (

Example of Predator in Action: Air National Guard Recruiter Rapes New Recruit

As we learn more about the modus operandi of predators, we learn that not only do they groom their victims and use alcohol and drugs to incapacitate them, but they also have behaviors that are specific to sex offenders (Salter, 1995):

  • Attitudes of ownership and entitlement
  • Engaging in anti-social behavior
  • Engaging in other criminal, possible non-sexual crimes
  • Isolating others, particularly women
  • Failure to consider injury to others

As a result of losing that control, I no longer trust the bar environments, drinking with others, or drinking and losing control in any fashion. But for those of you who do want to go out and have fun, here are some safety tips for safe drinking from RAINN.

  1. Don’t leave your drink unattended while talking, dancing, using the ladie’s room, or making a phone call.
  2. At parties, don’t drink from punch bowls or other large, common open containers.
  3. If someone offers to get you a drink from the bar at the club or party, go with them to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself.
  4. Watch out for your friends, and vice versa. Always leave the party or bar together. If a friend seems out of it, is way too drunk for the amount of liquor she’s had, or is acting out of character, get her to a safety place immediately.
  5. If you think you or a friend has been drugged, call 911, and be explicit with doctors so they’ll give you the right tests (you’ll need a urine test and possibly others). The National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) can often send an advocate to the hospital to help you through the whole process.

Lastly, if you are in the military and you want safe and confidential service from a non-governmental organization created by one of our own (free of worrying about whether or not your Chain of Command is going to find out), please contact us at We will support you and help you navigate the military sexual assault services available to you.

Betrayed Again

betrayalAs I wake up from this fog called PTSD, things start to become more and more clear.  I realize, much like my military career, my journey to healing is my own as well.  One of the hardest things to accept while serving my country was that I had no where to turn for help. I needed to maintain my own well-being so that I could continue to be a high functioning soldier.

After awhile I could not hide the fact that I had PTSD.  I didn’t have combat PTSD, I had an unnecessary PTSD from being raped, sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, and discriminated against by the very people who were supposed to have my back.  Although with the proper supports and help, we could have prevented the acute stress from becoming full blown compounded PTSD.

In the end, I realized that the original oppression AND retaliation for reporting those violent crimes is what truly damaged me.  I was completely taken by surprise.  I had no idea that I would ever be scorned and accused of causing a criminal to ‘lose their job’. I just assumed that I would be believed and taken care of.  Boy was I wrong.

During the investigation, I was physically attacked by one of the assailant’s friends at a local club.  I was knocked to the floor from behind resulting in an injury to my knee and a lost fingernail. Then I struggled away from the attacker while defending myself.  But it wasn’t the physical injuries that wrecked me, it was the reality that I truly should not take my safety for granted at any time, anywhere. My life would forever be different from that day forward.

After realizing who the assailants were, I made the connection to the Maine Air National Guard and reported the physical assault to the local police department. Unfortunately, they did not feel this was a priority and dropped the charges I had pressed.  I also informed my Commander at the time of what had occurred and he said there was nothing he could do about it because it happened off base (jurisdiction issues). The same ‘soldier’ who set me up to be attacked, and got away with it, was later convicted of a felony with jail time. He is still serving.

The investigation by the Commander (my boss) was eventually concluded and the court date was scheduled. The day before our “Administrative Hearing” I was contacted by the Commander who informed me that both of the individuals we filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints on were willing to plead out but that would mean that it would not be a matter of public record.  I wanted it to be over so I agreed to the terms. Of course I was fine with no public records because I wanted privacy. In essence what I did was unknowingly withdraw the original complaint and the whole thing disappeared.

I was willing to accept the pleas of the deal because they had to leave the squadron, not me.  I didn’t hurt anybody and just wanted to go back and continue with what I felt was a successful career.  But because of the way the military handles cases of violent crimes (or doesn’t handle), I was instead subjected to retaliation from those who chose to believe the criminal’s version of events over mine. These two criminals both retired with full military benefits.

I returned to relentless forms of retaliation that literally ran me out of the squadron.  First when I got back to the squadron, I realized that I no longer had the positions of leadership or authority that I once had (demoted), then they would assign me menial tasks that would ensure that I was by myself (isolated), then there were the verbal cues and statements made by the very bold who had no problem making it known to me that I was no longer a part of the team (bullying), and finally the entire Chain of Command held me up at every turn by denying me the training I needed to attain my promotions (withholding of training, promotions, etc.).

During all this retaliation, I found out that my father was dying of terminal cancer and only had six months to live.  I was working full-time as a civilian and at this point had limited my activity with the military to one weekend a month, two weeks a year.  I asked them if I could come in during the week to make up the drills while I assisted my father with getting to doctor’s appointments, getting groceries, and overall support on the weekends. Their response to my inquiry was, “This could go on for years.”

It would have been one thing if they actually counted on me to ensure the mission was fulfilled but at this point in my career, they didn’t even want me at the squadron yet were going to give me a hard time about spending time with my father who only had six months to live. My attitude was, I am planning on giving you at least twenty years, why can’t you give me six months? If I had to do it over again, I would have chose my dad again.

They wanted me to take a leave of absence.  I said, no, I can just come in during the week and make it up like everyone else.  They acquiesced.  Although, when I showed up during the week to start making up those drills, they started giving me a hard time. Basically, they started changing the standards because it was me.  Anything they could do to give me a hard time was exactly what they did despite the fact that I had acute PTSD from the assaults and my father was dying.

It was at that time that I decided enough was enough and I was going to continue my military career despite the sexual assaults and retaliation.  I transferred to the Massachusetts Air National Guard which was a four hour drive one way but it was worth it.  I loved serving my country, I loved my job, and I wanted to be a Chief some day. My new Commander understood my predicament with my father and was willing to work with me.

My Commander may have been supportive but the others in my Chain had been warned.  The old Chain of Command called the new Chain of Command and told them I was a troublemaker and to look out for me. Six months after transferring to my new squadron, my father passed, shortly after 9/11/2001. I knew that the Air Force had invested a lot in me and my training and I was not going to let all that taxpayer money go to waste because these freaks didn’t believe women could do maintenance.  I walked into a snake’s pit and it continuously got worse until I had to get an ‘expedited transfer’ (no such thing back then) from there too. The tragic events of 9/11 gave me the inner strength and fortitude to put up with these people’s crap for the next four years.

I was able to keep the sexual assaults and case under wraps when I transferred to my third squadron but eventually it came out because of my 10 year security clearance review. I had to report on that form that I had received counseling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from “military sexual trauma.” Had I received counseling specifically for grieving, spousal issues, or combat PTSD, I would have been exempt but because I was sexually assaulted on the job, not only did they want the information but they wanted my Department of Veteran Affairs records too.  Now everyone in the Chain of Command knew once again that I had been raped (no privacy).

I chose to walk away as opposed to have a security clearance that carried a mental health diagnosis of PTSD from sexual assault in the military. I have a right to confidentiality and I am not going to walk around the rest of my life branded as a rape or MST survivor.  I was TSgt Jennifer Norris, Satellite Communications Technician & Emergency Manager.  I truly did not understand why these evil deeds by others followed MY career around and were used not only to harm me personally but end my career as well.

At this point, the USAF had invested a lot of money in my thirteen year career.  It would have been great to have a resource other than my biased Commander who had the power to end my career. I needed someone who could have sat down and figured out what was best for me and the government after all the money they had invested in me.  I guarantee that had I been given the space and time to get the help that I needed, I could have had a successful career.  Instead, I carried a ‘scarlet letter’ and was silenced into shame because I was fearful of other’s reactions after what I had seen and witnessed personally.

In the end, I called truce deuces.  My health and happiness is much more important to me then their approval.  I have been able to focus on my marriage and my relationships with others.  Now that I am not being abused by others, I am able to heal and move forward. I have accepted that you people needlessly gave me PTSD and I will do everything in my power to prevent others from suffering with compounded PTSD from not only a crime against a person but also the resulting retaliation that occurs because you have unprofessionals handling law.

Is this how you would want to be treated if you were traumatized because a violent crime was perpetrated against you?  Guess what?  This is exactly the kind of thing that is happening to this day because the Chain of Command is in essence a gatekeeper to justice and the military does not have the resources to treat their soldiers effectively.  As evidenced by my own case, they do not want to have to report to anyone that a sexual assault or violent crime occurred during their watch. Instead, reporting this crime is used against you. That in and of itself is the ultimate betrayal.

I want a Commander who wants justice, is empathetic and wants me to heal, not one that is worried about their career.  I want other warfighters who are not going to turn on me because someone said something that wasn’t true out of spite.  I want a life that is free of abusers and bullies, hence the reason I married my husband.  I have been betrayed on so many levels in my life that I expect to be betrayed now.  And you know what?  Because of that betrayal, I can stand alone.  Everything happens for a reason.