Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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.

Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at United States Military Bases

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*Research not complete.

My experiences as a victim of crime in the United States military inspired me to do the work I do today as a military justice policy analyst. Not only did I witness first hand how a predator operates but I witnessed multiple predator types in real time while serving my country. If these people committed these acts of crimes at work in the civilian world, they would have been in jail or I would have been rich after taking my employer to civil court. Well maybe not because the deck is stacked against the accuser but we do in fact have a civilian justice system that allows us to hold others accountable, while it simultaneously protects the due process rights of the accused. This cannot be said of the military justice system. There is no guarantee a military Commander will do anything with a crime report let alone process the felony crime effectively. We do not want a justice system where one man or woman decides whether to do nothing, give a non judicial punishment for a felony crime, or railroad the accused or accuser. We do want a justice system where we can hold our employer accountable without roadblocks from the Pentagon, Congress, and the Feres Doctrine. We cannot effectively tackle the violent crime issue in the military until the victims of crimes, like sexual assault and domestic violence, feel safe enough to report. Crime victims have expressed that they do not want to report crimes to a Commander for fear of retaliation. The Department of Defense admitted that of those of who did report the crime, 62% perceived that they faced retaliation. If service members felt safe enough to report, it could help us prevent homicide, suicide, and non combat death.

If we think about violent crime committed by military personnel compared to violent crime statistics in the United States (reference above graph), at first glance it appears the military has a homicide ‘issue’ among the ranks. Please see the below links for a sample of crime on some of the U.S. military bases. All military bases worldwide will eventually be included in this research. And the research for sexual assault, rape, domestic violence, and physical assault specifically has not been conducted yet either. Because the research is far from being complete, it is too early to make any assumptions so I will put the data in one place and let you come to your own conclusions. But if military crime mirrors civilian crime statistics, one can deduce that if the military has a lot of homicide, there is even more rape. Currently the number one concern in the military is a Commander’s ability to give a non judicial punishment for a felony crime. A Commander can bypass the courts martial process simply by punishing and/or discharging the accused with a preponderance of the evidence. This does nothing to protect our military personnel and the civilians who live near our bases in America and worldwide. Predators do not discriminate. They are just as likely to harm civilians as they are military personnel. They know their rights and they know that jurisdiction issues and lack of communication among law enforcement agencies will help prolong getting caught. We need to be one step ahead.

We can’t get real violent crime numbers for the military bases unless we include those who died of non combat deaths while they were deployed. Veterans Noonie Fortin and Ann Wright inspired me to initially look into the non combat deaths of female soldiers overseas because they observed the unusually high number of female soldiers who died of non combat deaths during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their chief concern was that although the military labels a non combat death as a suicide, there are suspicions that some female soldiers were murdered, like LaVena Johnson, Amy Tirador, and Ciara Durkin. I did the research on every single female soldier who died from non combat deaths overseas and their concerns are valid. My research on non combat deaths in Iraq alone revealed that roughly 30% of female soldiers died as a result of homicide, suicide, and other unknown causes. I am working on collecting the data for male soldiers who died from non combat related injuries in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas. I started with 2010 so we can get the most recent cases but I will go back to September 11, 2001 in the next phase of data collection. The first male soldier non combat death case I found in 2010 was an unsolved homicide. His name was SSG Anton Phillips and he was stabbed to death in Afghanistan. Further research in this area has uncovered that non combat deaths of male soldiers are just as prevalent.

Learn more:
The US Military Recruited Violent Felons to Support the War Efforts
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Afghanistan)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Iraq)
Non Combat Deaths of Female Soldiers in the US Military (Other Areas)
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at Fort Bragg, North Carolina (US Army)
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (US Army)
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at Fort Carson, Colorado (US Army)
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Violent Crime, Non Combat Death & Suicide at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Violent Crime at Fort Wainwright, Alaska (US Army)
Violent Crime at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance Benefits
Rep Nikki Tsongas & Rep Mike Turner Host Educational Caucus: Improving Treatment Resources for Male Survivors of Military Sexual Trauma
An Open Letter to the Senate and House of Representatives in Support of the Military Justice Improvement Act
Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights

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

CCTV News: Jennifer Norris Discusses Sexual Assault in the U.S. Military (2013)

Anchor Anand Naidoo and Jennifer Norris, a retired Air Force Sergeant, discuss sexual assault in the U.S. military.

Personal Story and Testimony of TSgt. Jennifer Norris, US Air Force Retired, Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (2013)

Jennifer Norris

Jennifer Norris, USAF Ret.

It 
is 
with 
a 
heavy 
heart 
that 
I 
sit 
here 
today. 
Because, 
I
 am 
not 
only 
speaking 
for 
myself 
but 
I
 am 
speaking 
for 
thousands 
and 
thousands 
of 
male 
and
 female
 survivors, 
both 
military
 and 
civilian, 
whose 
lives 
have 
been
 forever 
altered 
by 
the 
military’s 
sexual 
assault 
epidemic, 
a
 culture 
that punishes 
the 
victim
, and 
a 
broken 
military 
justice
 system.

Core 
issues 
must
 be 
addressed. 
The 
military 
justice
 system
 elevates 
an individual’s
 discretion 
over 
the 
rule 
of 
law. 
The 
system 
is 
encumbered 
with personal 
bias, 
conflicts of interest and abuse of authority. The cycle of repeated 
scandals,
 self‐investigations, 
and
 ineffective reforms must be broken. Click here for full House Armed Services Committee testimony.

I 
want
 to
 recognize 
the 
service
members 
who 
have 
not 
survived
 due 
to
 non‐combat
 deaths, murder, 
and 
suicide 
and 
their 
families 
who 
are 
still 
waiting
 for 
answers. -Jennifer Norris, USAF Retired

Please note the same day of the military sexual assault hearings before the House Armed Services Committee on January 23, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the Pentagon was lifting the women in combat ban.

Personal Story:

I am older now and I have had a lot of time to reflect back on what happened to me. And it is now evident to me that I am one of many who have experienced the same kind of treatment simply because I reported sexual assault by a fellow, higher-ranking soldier.

I was raised by a father who worked hard as a logger his entire life. He taught me early in my childhood that I was equal with my brothers. I was expected to help prepare the firewood every season, I was expected to help mow the fields, and I was included in any and all activities. I grew up in a small town and never once experienced someone trying to harm me in a violent way or discrimination based solely on my gender. I grew up with a sense of confidence and determination that I could do anything I wanted to with my life. That is the American dream, right?

I learned quickly after joining the USAF that I had stepped into a whole new world, one that eventually made me feel like I was dealing with an underground mob. Shortly after I enlisted, I was invited to a “new recruit” party. I was really excited to attend so that I could meet others who were also going through the excitement and fear of becoming a soldier. Instead I became the victim of a calculating predator who used the “party” as a way to set up his attack. And, as I commonly see in many of the cases in my work with the Military Rape Crisis Center, he used alcohol as his weapon. When he was unable to pressure me to drink, he used whatever means necessary to incapacitate his victim. When I was raped, I was chemically restrained and could not move; yet I knew what was happening to me. At Protect Our Defenders and the Military Rape Crisis Center, we frequently see this same modus operandi.

I didn’t report that crime and here is why. I could not face that it happened. I didn’t want to start out my military career like that and so I determined that I would never talk about it to anyone. From that day forward, I avoided the recruiter at all costs and soldiered on. I have never seen him since.

I had an amazing basic training experience at Lackland. My military training instructor was SSgt Knight and that professional NCO taught me how to be a good follower and he also believed in my leadership skills.

The majority of the people that I served with were amazing, inspiring individuals who truly were dedicated to the mission. But just like me, there are far too many who fall victim to manipulation and abuse of authority by perpetrators who are higher ranking and have more credibility with those who are in charge. We have no choice but to acquiesce when under the leadership of a heavy fisted Chain of Command.

I was assaulted a second time at Keesler Air Force Base after Basic Training by my instructor. I was attending Satellite and Wideband Communications technical school. I was there for 6 months. While there, I learned very quickly that if you reported sexual harassment, assault, or were offended by someone’s lewd and crude remarks that you will be quickly turned out of the Air Force. So, I planned to get through it, go back home and serve with the Maine Air National Guard, where I thought I would be safe. I just sucked it up and kept my mouth shut so I could graduate. I watched an Active Duty Air Force female, who to this day is one of my best friends, get swiftly booted from the military, after she reported that one of her instructor’s made derogatory remarks to her during class. This girl was 19 years old. The military training managers engaged in what appeared to be a witch-hunt and looked for anything and everything to kick her out. In the end, they were successful. Today she suffers severe PTSD from this experience.

A few very significant things happened while I was at Keesler. One of the female airman that I was going to school with admitted that she had sex with her recruiter. This conversation was in the presence of another Maine Air National Guardsman who shared that the same recruiter who raped me had also sexually assaulted his cousin, who as a result did not join the military. When he explained to me how it occurred, my blood began to boil with rage because I recognized the pattern immediately. The recruiter had done the same thing to me and I determined I was going to press charges against him, when I returned home, to stop him from harming anyone else.

The Post Traumatic Stress, which I didn’t realize I had, kicked in to overdrive after learning this information. I wanted to take action. I did an impulsive thing. I called up the recruiter who raped me and told him I was going to press charges against him and that I knew what he had done to another girl as well. He quickly hung up on me. My thinking was maybe just maybe he would be too scared to try this again.

About two weeks before graduation from Keesler, I was performing a maintenance loop on a mobile satellite communications van as part of the testing to move on to the next block. I had it down. I loved my job and everything stuck. For this test, we needed to step inside the enclosed satellite communications maintenance van. The instructor shut the door and stood there with his clipboard behind me while I configured the van. Shortly after starting the task, he came up from behind me, attacked me, pushed me into the wall of the van, rubbed his groin area on my body and whispered in my ear, “let me help you, let me help you.” Those words trigger me to this day.

I got angry, I flipped out and pushed him away and told him not to touch me ever again. He was surprised and didn’t say a word. My fight or flight response had kicked into overdrive and my anxiety was so high that I was shaking while I finished configuring that van and waited for him to give me permission to leave the enclosed van. But, I did it. I passed the test.

Unfortunately, it did not end there. This TSgt told me to stay behind after class. Because I could not disobey a direct order without consequences, I stayed only for him to tell me that he was going to fail me for attitude even though I passed the final test. I immediately broke down and started crying. All I could say is why are you doing this to me? Why? I begged him to reconsider. He told me to report the next morning an hour before the rest of the class and he would reconsider. I did not do as ordered and I never saw him again.

Instead of going to school the next morning, I instead went to the Air National Guard liaison, who I had established a nice relationship with, and I informed her that my instructor wanted to fail me for attitude, despite passing my test. The Guard gave the TSgt. a call. He acquiesced and I was told to report to my next class. While at Keesler, I never saw him again. I did not report this crime for a number of reasons. First I witnessed first hand what happens when you report that type of behavior. Second, I was only two weeks away from graduation, and, third, I did not want an investigation launched and risk being stuck on that base with that predator. Lastly, I did not want to be stigmatized as a female who alleges sexual assault before I had even entered the operation Air Force. These fears and attitudes exist to this very day.

When I got back to the Maine Air National Guard, the recruiter was gone. He had quit his full time AGR position, which rarely happens in the National Guard. He was a MSgt and he effectively gave up his career and his retirement. He moved to North Carolina. I was so relieved that he was gone. Again, I did not report because I knew I could potentially lose my career. I let myself become excited about starting my new career. I planned on staying in for 20 plus years and despite being raped and assaulted in the first year of my career, I loved being in the military, I loved my job, and I loved being a part of a family and a team.

I thought I would be safe at the Maine Air National Guard. The Commander put me to work as soon as I got back from Technical School to help me transition back into civilian life and I totally excelled and became a superior performer. As a result, unbeknownst to me my Commander asked my NCOIC to coordinate hiring me as temporary federal technician. My NCOIC notified me and began the hiring process. I was ecstatic beyond belief and made the most money I had ever made for doing a job I loved!

Shortly after beginning my job, I noticed that the Maintenance Superintendent, also my NCOIC, and boss began treating me differently than the guys. It made me feel uncomfortable, because I didn’t want the guys I worked with to be resentful. But, I also knew that I was a great troop, so I ate up all the extra responsibility that was assigned thinking he must recognize that I am a true leader. No, that was not the case at all. Eerily similar to the recruiter, my NCOIC was beginning to set up his attack. He began assigning me jobs that would isolate me so that he could make his move. He would give me the assignment, then show up unexpectedly to “check in on me,” but instead forced himself on me every chance he got. I could not escape. The abuse escalated over time and he became more abusive the more I resisted and told him NO. His attitude was that I should be flattered that he wanted me. I was in pain. I was there to do a job, to serve my country, why must I deal with this?

The more I fought him off and begged him to stop, the more he would escalate. He regularly forced himself on me, but when I fought back, he called me names and belittled me. He would tell me that my breasts were too small and tell me that it would be in my best interest. I was too scared to report this behavior because he was the Commander’s right hand man. And in the military, rank does come with its privileges including the higher rank you are the more credibility you have with the Commander. After what happened with the recruiter and the technical school instructor, I was already fearful of rank and abuse of authority.

Meanwhile, while my NCOIC was sexually assaulting me and abusing me during the week, there was another National Guardsman, who was considered a weekend warrior, doing the same exact thing to me. I did my best to stay clear of both but they would sneak up on me when I was least expecting it. It was like it became a sick game for them. To this day, I cannot handle anyone coming up behind me or hovering near me. I watched both of them escalate while I felt powerless to do anything about it, if I wanted to save my career. After a while, they did it in front of people as well and nobody said or did anything. Why would bystanders put their career at risk for me? I felt totally isolated.

One night when my NCOIC attempted to rape me in a drunken rage, I started screaming and someone heard me. I escaped but I fell apart. I turned into an emotionless robot. I continued to do a good job but I was dying inside. My attitude began to suffer. I was looking for a way out. One day, one of the professional NCOs in our squadron approached me and said he was concerned about me. I had just received an award for Superior Performer during an Operational Readiness Exercise, but I wanted to get out and he wanted to know why. All it took was that one person showing genuine concern and care for the floodgates to open.

I immediately started crying and opened up to him forgetting that by military law, he was supposed to report any crimes that he became aware of. I begged him not to report because I was afraid that it would end my career. He told me if I did not report that he would. I then reported all four of the perpetrators to my Commander.

The Commander initially doubted me. It was not until after I provided him with proof that he raised from a seating position in anger and screamed with powerful emotion, “he betrayed me.” The Commander then told me he had instructed my NCOIC to hire me because of my excellent work performance. We discussed the recruiter and he admitted he was confused why the recruiter suddenly gave up his career and retirement, but it all made sense to him now. All of these predators appeared to be stellar troops. All of them had histories of sexually assaulting others.

In many ways, I am one of the lucky ones, which is sad to say. My Commander believed me. He did the best he could to handle the case against my NCOIC and his friend given the complexities involved. He strove to be fair, neutral, and impartial. I was forced to leave the Squadron if I wanted to be safe, while he conducted the investigation. Because he could only investigate on Guard weekends, the case got dragged out for months. While I was isolated at Headquarters, the two predators were able to stay and inject their version of how things went down. They had all that time to convince many in the squadron that I was the bad guy. After they admitted guilt the day prior to the administrative hearing, they were both forced to leave my squadron and I was allowed to return.

Sounds like a success story right? Wrong. My Commander deemed the crimes sexual assault. When the crimes were reported to the Adjutant General for the state, it somehow became sexual harassment. Our only recourse was to file an EEO complaint. I filed the complaints against two of the four perpetrators, because we didn’t have jurisdiction over the Active Duty Air Force Technical School Instructor and the Recruiter had skipped town. I had no one assisting me.

I was contacted by the one of the perpetrator’s lawyer both on the phone and in writing. I never responded. While waiting for the investigation to conclude, I was physically attacked by a friend of one of the perpetrator’s. I pressed charges but unfortunately the civilian authorities did not pursue the case. I told my Commander and he said there was nothing he could do because it happened off base. The day before I was to go to the Administrative Hearings for the “trial” of my NCOIC and his friend both of them copped a plea. They agreed to the punishments that the Commander recommended. The Commander told me they were willing to plead guilty. He asked if I was okay with it so he could proceed with removing them from the Squadron. I was so tired and beat down by this point that I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to go back to work and resume the career that I loved. When I agreed to the terms of the punishment it caused the EEO complaint to be withdrawn. Therefore, the Maine Air National Guard either didn’t have to report the crimes at all to the Pentagon or they could report the crimes as sexual harassment.

The punishment imposed by the Commander was that both perpetrators were permitted to agree to resign in lieu of Administrative Hearings, which would have become a matter of public record. I wasn’t offered the chance to proceed with a court martial. I was glad they were gone, but the reason I pressed charges was to prevent any other woman from having to go through this. My efforts were futile. I was told that because my NCOIC had over 18 years of service that he was allowed to stay in the military until he reached his twenty years. When he reached his twenty, he would be forced out. No sex offender record, nothing. Because we didn’t have as much evidence against the other perpetrator, the National Guardsman, he was kicked out of the Maine Air National Guard and given a LOR. He was discharged honorably; he joined the New Hampshire Air National Guard. Ironically, the last time I saw him he was in charge of a training conference I was attending and he was a MSgt working at the Pentagon. Both of these perpetrators retired with full military benefits. Meanwhile, I was retaliated against by the enlisted Chain of Command.

In 2006, The NCO in the Maine Air National Guard, who had me physically beat, was found guilty of manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident in another case. But because he had a top-secret security clearance he somehow got off. And as I went back to my squadron, I had to work with this man. I tried to pull myself together and continue with my career, but instead I was met with resistance from almost everyone I encountered. I was the bad guy, because I made the predators lose their jobs. As a cruel joke, men literally hugged the wall as I passed by pretending I might falsely accuse them of assault. I was treated like a leper. I was pulled from leadership positions. I was denied training I needed to become eligible for my SSgt stripe. I continually asked to complete my training and was called a spoiled brat, by the Officer in Charge. And I was assigned menial tasks that isolated me. By this time, the Commander who investigated the case had been promoted to Headquarters and a new Commander was in charge. He depended heavily on the enlisted chain of command and was willing to sell me out for the mission.

I felt like an outcast and people did not hide their disdain for me. I had no more fight left in me. I didn’t want to give up my career, so I transferred to the Massachusetts National Guard, which was a four-hour drive one way. It was the only way to continue my career progression and promotions. I needed to remain in the same career field, at least until I was a TSgt.

I went from one snake’s pit to another. My old squadron called up my new squadron and informed them that I was a troublemaker. A person, in my enlisted chain of command, shared this with me when I asked why everyone was treating me so badly. I was met with resistance from the get go, despite the fact that I was a super troop and worked very hard at my job. While serving at the Massachusetts Air National Guard, I experienced gender discrimination. I was held to double standards. If others came in late, it was no big deal. If I came in one minute late, I was getting hauled into an office for a big meeting with 3 or 4 people. My new Commander recognized my skills and considered me a subject matter expert. He even hired me during the week to help keep things running smoothly because of the multiple deployments the squadron endured after 9/11. I helped keep things running smoothly back home and continued to train all the new airmen that came into the squadron. We had a lot of folks leave after their first deployment and the only ones left were the ones who wanted to be there. As a result, we got a lot of new airman.

My new squadron Commander recognized that I was a superior performer and promoted me to SSgt shortly after transferring to that base. The Maine Air National Guard would not give me my SSgt stripe claiming that I lacked leadership skills, despite the fact that I was an Airman Leadership School instructor, not only met the standards but exceeded them, including going to Airman Leadership School in person, unlike a lot of National Guardsman. And, I had to fight the Massachusetts Air National Guard for my TSgt stripe despite the fact that I had not only met the standards but also far exceeded them. I had become a very effective satellite communications trainer and had a record set up time. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the day that my NCOIC told me that he was going to make one of the Airman that I trained the Team Chief. I had 8 years in the field, while this airman had only two. I demanded to see the First Shirt regarding this issue because I didn’t want to turn this into an EEO issue.

My Chain of Command eventually acquiesced and gave me my TSgt stripe and the Team Chief position. I was the most qualified to do the job. But, this job came with big consequences. Instead of supporting me in my position, I was overworked, blamed for things out of my control, and not respected. I was left with no support or direction so I had to come in during the week and teach myself. After teaching myself, I would then create standard operating procedures to help train my troops. I always trained myself out of a job because I took serving seriously. If anything was to happen to me, I needed to have people that could seamlessly pick up where I left off.

After months of setting me up to fail they threatened to pull my TSgt stripe from me as a punishment for “substandard performance.” They had been planning it for quite some time because by this time, they had the Commander on their side and I didn’t stand a chance. As a result, I filed an EEO complaint against my NCOIC for gender discrimination. I chose to report informally because I had been through a formal reporting process before. I did not have the energy.

My Commander conducted his investigation and determined that my allegations could not be substantiated, but in the same breath told me that I could have anything I wanted. All I wanted was to go to my planned NCO Academy School and be transferred out of that squadron. I also no longer wanted to work for my abusive and belittling boss and refused to return back to satellite communications. Again, not a huge victory but at least I was able to escape that horribly oppressive environment. By this time in my career, I was beginning to unravel and feel completely ready to break. I decided to transfer back to the Maine Air National Guard and this time I chose a critical career field where women might be treated a little better than in the maintenance field. My boss was promoted to SMSgt shortly after.

I met my husband at Keesler while attending another training school in 2001. We finally made the commitment to one another in 2005 even though I realized I was severely damaged by the rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, abuse, retaliation, and gender discrimination. Love is the only thing that pulled me through this relationship, because I was literally incapable of having interpersonal relationships. I was hardened, damaged, hyper vigilant, and defensive.

Because of him, I reached out to the VA when I found out that they finally were treating Military Sexual Trauma. I have been getting counseling and treatment at the VA since 2006. As a result of getting that help, I was forced to list on my security clearance form that I was receiving counseling for military sexual trauma. The security clearance folks wanted a release of information signed so they could gain access to my medical records from the VA. I signed them, out of fear. But, then called the VA and revoked it, essentially ending my career. I did not want to jeopardize my future career opportunities because I had been labeled and diagnosed with PTSD from military sexual assault.

After being medically retired from the Air Force for PTSD due to MST, I felt like a fish out of water. I had no purpose in life. I was taking a ton of prescription medications, to help me feel less angry, depressed, and help me live without constant anxiety and fear. I felt like I had lost my life’s dream and there was no reason to live anymore. I came very close to ending my own life, because I felt broken, damaged, and unsure of myself. I literally felt like I was invisible and what I thought or felt did not matter. I wanted to die because I basically got fired for being raped.

Working with veterans and active duty personnel who are victims of military sexual assault, I came to recognize that I had been shamed into silence. My fellow veterans helped me find my voice again.

If anyone ever tells you that women are the weaker sex, don’t you believe it.

Related Links:
Jennifer Norris, USAF Full HASC Testimony
Jennifer Norris, USAF HASC Personal Story (PoD)
Jennifer Norris, USAF HASC Testimony (C-SPAN Video)
The Battle Within: Examining Rape in America’s Military (Photos)
Women in Combat: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Lifts Pentagon Ban
Now That Women Are Cleared For Combat, How About A Rape-Free Workplace?
Time to act on sexual assault in the military, Susan Collins says
Senator Susan Collins Leads Effort to Reform Military Justice System to Address Sexual Assaults (Military Justice Improvement Act)
Sexual assault victim, “The system is rigged”
Claire McCaskill’s ‘lonely’ sex-assault stand
The war in Congress over rape in the military, explained
Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights
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?

POD: Survivor Jennifer Norris Demands Sexual Assault Investigation at Lackland (2012)

Aug. 1 2012, Capitol Hill: Protect Our Defenders and five veterans who survived unpunished rape and sexual assault in the military hold a press conference in Washington, DC to demand Congress open an investigation into the widening Lackland Air Force Base sexual assault scandal. These are their speeches.

Why I Support the STOP Act (H.R. 3435)

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Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) & Jennifer Norris, USAF Retired

The STOP Act, Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, would establish an independent professional legal entity separate from the chain of command of the Department of Defense. Until very recently, sexual assault investigations were under the control of and conducted by the Commander. The Commander had the power to decide to pursue justice or not and to what level he elevated it. Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, has recently declared that he is taking the power to investigate out of the hands of the Commanders and giving it to an O-6 or higher in the Chain of Command. My initial reaction is that there is an automatic conflict of interest with that and that the investigation can still be stifled if kept within the Chain of Command. The STOP Act would help to provide a form of checks and balances and put the case in the hands of a professional so that the investigation is handled appropriately. It is imperative that these cases be handled effectively in order to prevent further emotional and physical harm to the victims of such crimes.

In my efforts to educate the public via mostly social media, my fellow advocacy peers and I have come across rape apologists. My initial reaction is that these vocal dissenters of justice are the perpetrators themselves but after seeing so many various reactions to the topic, I am led to believe that there is a widespread misconception out there about the crime, the perpetrators, and the victims of sexual assault. For some reason, the white elephant in the room is that most claims of sexual assault are bogus reports. Today I was reminded by a fellow soldier (not the norm) that victims of rape claim rape to avoid charges of adultery. Who would know about that aside from the rapists and those unfortunate victims who happen to get caught up in this web of destruction? I never would have imagined this kind of response to a person who had the courage to report this crime. My day was somewhat planned until I woke up to this kind of mentality once again.

Instead of turning the other way and doing nothing, I decided to take this opportunity to educate others about the issue since there really is no arguing with idiots. At this point, it isn’t about what the rape apologists have to say; its about the truth. The truth is that most reports of sexual assault are not bogus reports. If there are any cases of bogus reports, they are definitely not the norm and don’t even compare to the number of sexual assaults. By the DoD’s own estimates there are roughly 3,192 sexual assaults reported a year in the military. These DoD estimates are staggering. Although Secretary Panetta estimates that the number is closer to 19,000 a year; most of them go unreported. And for those who have been victims of sexual assault or rape in the military, you understand clearly why one would be hesitant to report. It has devastating effects on your career, and in some cases reporting this crime is a career ender.

Although I pressed charges against two of the four perpetrators I crossed paths with within the first two years of my career, justice was still not served. I thought at the time that justice was served but after seeing how things played out and learning more about the issue, I see that my case clearly falls into the typical way that sexual assault investigations are handled in the military. The threshold for punishment is one of pity for the perpetrator because of how the report might affect their career, therefore they are not dealt the punishment that fits the crime. I must preface by stating that my Commander handled the situation pretty well. Unfortunately, this is not the norm. I have read countless stories about military rape victims who have sought justice only to be met with disbelief. In addition, they are treated like the enemy afterwards and their lives become a living hell. Not only are they forced to work with their rapist but they are forced psychologically to handle a situation that no one would wish on their worst enemy. Imagine the psychological trauma that results from getting raped by a fellow soldier and then having to work with or for that individual the next day.

In my case, one of the men who was sexually assaulting me was my NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge). He was my boss therefore he had the power to tell me what to do and when to do it. I was an E-4 and he was an E-7. He had the power to make me a “warehouse manager” in an effort to isolate me so that he could prey on me when we were alone. If he told me to work in the warehouse that day, then I worked in the warehouse. If he told me to do anything, I had to do it because otherwise it was, “disobeying a direct order” or “disrespect to an NCO”. I knew that if I did not comply with him that he could affect the outcome of my promotions, temporary duty assignments, work responsibilities, and general overall health. I was totally enslaved to this man because I didn’t want to risk the harm that came from reporting a sexual predator to the chain of command. Eventually, I didn’t have a choice but to report but it was not until after I was completely broken.

I went from “superior performer” to I don’t give a crap. I went from I want to retire with the military to I want out of here as soon as I can. I went from being happy and energetic to being totally sad and completely wiped out emotionally. I never imagined in a million years how negatively this would affect my psyche. I now understood why it is illegal and considered a crime to touch another person’s body, force yourself on another person, and/or make derogatory, sexual, belittling comments to another human being. I felt like my hard work and efforts meant nothing. I felt like I existed mainly for the purpose of the perpetrators pleasure. I felt like no matter how hard I worked or how much I learned that none of it mattered. It was like banging my head against a brick wall. Others noticed how hard I worked but the one person that controlled my career just happened to be a sexual predator.

For those who have been in the military, you understand how important the Chain of Command is. You also know that it is required that you report to your Chain of Command and attempt to resolve all issues at the lowest level possible. So what do you do when the person who is assaulting you is in your Chain of Command? I was approached by a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (E-7), outside my Chain of Command, who noticed that I had changed. He observed that I went from loving the military to not caring about anything. After being approached by this professional man who genuinely cared, it opened the flood gates. I finally broke down after months of attempting to handle the situation on my own with no success and told him what I had been dealing with on an almost daily basis. I was scared of my boss and no longer wanted to be subjected to his abuse and assaults.

My NCOIC purposefully set me up to be alone with him. And, his predator ways escalated over time. After assigning me to tasks that put me in isolated positions, he would then show up and make his move. For example, I was the warehouse manager, so he assigned me to clean up and organize the warehouse. I welcomed the challenge of the work but dreaded the isolated moments that he took advantage of. He grabbed me, pushed himself on me, groped me, and tried to force me to be physical and intimate with him. I would fight him off and fight back. I professionally, assertively, and angrily told him not to touch me on numerous occasions. He would not take no for an answer and he would get angry with me after I rejected his advances. I was told that I should feel privileged that he was interested in me, that I was a bitch, and that he didn’t want me anyway because I had small tits. So in addition to having my body violated, I was belittled and yelled at because I would not comply with his demands. This didn’t happen once or twice. This happened on numerous occasions, if not daily at times. He escalated over time and became more angry, sneaky, manipulative, and forceful.

Had this man not had control over my career, I would have ceased the behavior sooner. But because I was trying to safeguard my career while politely (and not so politely) trying to reject his advances, I was always scared that he would abuse his power. He had the power to write me up, talk bad about me to leadership, and hinder promotion, in addition to taking advantage of me. I felt like I was under his complete control and I worked every day trying to be perfect so that he could not use anything against me. Unfortunately, because he started to escalate and exhibit his behaviors in front of others, and no one said anything, it made me feel even more alone. I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I couldn’t turn to my Chain of Command because he was in my Chain of Command. I did not even think about reporting the sexual assaults to my Commander because the Chain of Command was so adamant about resolving issues at the lowest level possible. I also knew that if I reported this man for sexually assaulting me that my career would be over. And, in fact it was.

Everyone in my Chain of Command was informed after I reported the assault. It was protocol to keep my supervisor, the Chief, the Officer-in-Charge, and the perpetrator informed at all times. The Commander knew everything and it was his responsibility to keep the others in my Chain of Command informed with what was happening with one of their troops and the Superintendent of Maintenance. It was humiliating. And, instead of being supported through the process, I was judged, isolated, and basically run out. During the investigation, I was transferred out of the squadron. I agreed to the transfer because I could no longer handle being under the control of my NCOIC or in the same room with him. He had assaulted me on so many occasions that I was traumatized. I never knew when I was going to be put in a position where I had to fight him off. All I could think was why can’t I just come to work and work? Why do I have to deal with this? How do I make it stop?

The enacting of the STOP Act would provide me with a place to turn to, someone to advocate for me, and emotional help. Although my Commander did the best he could to investigate the situation professionally, it put all parties involved in a difficult position. Most crimes are investigated by professionals who went to school to learn the art of investigation, forensics, and crime scene analysis. Commanders have a full-time job with their existing responsibilities, let alone investigating a sexual assault claim. At the time, there was no help for me. It was so unbelievable to me that I would get assaulted by another in uniform, prove this, and not be offered any kind of mental health services. As a matter of fact, I had to pay for these services out of pocket. And because I was having such a hard time coping with the assaults, coping with the long, drawn out investigation process, and then coping with the retaliatory behavior by others in the Squadron, I was devastated. I had no choice but to turn to a professional for help. I had never been exposed to this kind of behavior and quite frankly didn’t even know what it was.

The STOP Act will hold perpetrators accountable, investigate the crimes, prosecute fairly, and provide checks and balances in the system. If this felony crime wasn’t so devastating, we would not have to create a special office to handle it but it is. It is not only devastating to the victim but to the Squadron or Unit as a whole. Morale was turned upside down after I reported the crime and the Commander launched an investigation. It was a small unit and the rumor mill started almost immediately. I was so ashamed of what had occurred that I was not interested in talking about the situation with anyone. Quite frankly, it was embarrassing and I wanted to put it behind me and move on. Unfortunately, others became fearful of me because they were not aware of what truly occurred. They were told that they had to be careful around me, that I was a troublemaker, and that I was a traitor. I never expected that response. I never expected that I would be betrayed in that way.

I would have preferred that the investigation be handled outside the Squadron. I would have preferred that the case be handled discreetly. I would have preferred that I was offered mental health services. I would have preferred that both of us leave the squadron to prevent one or the other from talking about the circumstances in order to gain support. Removing the investigation from the Chain of Command would have changed the entire dynamic of the situation. The STOP Act emphasizes an importance on human rights, discourages criminal activity, encourages professionalism in the investigation, ensures the best possible outcome for a conviction that holds up, and prevents others from becoming a victim of that perpetrator as well. Criminal investigations are handled by the professionals in the civilian world, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be handled by professionals in the military as well. The STOP Act would create a legal entity that specializes in the investigation and prosecution of these predators. The STOP Act would hold predators responsible and accountable for their criminal activity. Sexual assault and rape is not only a felony crime but it is a human rights issue. The STOP Act will protect our defenders too.

Marine Corps Spouse Brittany Killgore Held Captive, Tortured, Raped, and Murdered After Refusing Sex; 3 BDSM Cult Members Sentenced to Life (2012)

Image: Brittany Dawn Killgore

Brittany Killgore, US Marine Corsp Spouse

Brittany Killgore, a civilian married to a man serving in the USMC, was initially reported missing on April 14, 2012 but was later found dead near Lake Skinner in California in 2012. Her husband was deployed at the time she went missing. They were stationed at Camp Pendleton and Brittany was in the process of getting a divorce and moving out of her home. On her last night at Camp Pendleton, another Marine named Sgt Louis Perez, offered to not only help her move but asked her to go out one last time before she left. Brittany was acquaintances with Perez, his live in girlfriend Dorothy Maraglino, and another woman named Jessica Lopez, who also lived at the residence of Maraglino.

After a lengthy investigation by civilian police in San Diego, it was determined that Louis Perez lured Brittany and eventually took her to his home where he and his girlfriend (Maraglino) lived. Perez, Maraglino, and Jessica Lopez all engaged in what is referred to as BDSM and they decided that Brittany would join them whether she wanted to or not. In the course of sexually abusing and torturing Brittany, Louis Perez strangled her to death. Maraglino and Perez decided that Jessica Lopez needed to take the fall for her death and they coerced Jessica into not only admitting to the murder but also to take her own life. She was found near death in a hotel room after a failed suicide attempt. In 2015, Perez, Maraglino, and Lopez were all sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Related Links:
Timeline: Brittany Killgore Case
Detectives: Marine wife Brittany Killgore died during sexual attack
Graphic autopsy reveals Brittany Killgore strangled, dismembered
Did fantasy become reality in S&M murder case?
3 conspired to commit thrill killing, DA says
Dismissal of charges denied for suspect in sex-torture murder case
Suspects accused in death of Brittany Killgore ordered to stand trial
Friend testifies Marine wife Brittany Killgore texted ‘help’ after dinner cruise with Louis Perez
Marine Convicted of Sex Dungeon Murder
Final defendant in murder of Marine wife is sentenced to two life terms
Life Sentences in 2012 Torture, Slaying of Marine Wife
Woman in sadomasochist sex ring sentenced for death of Marine wife Brittany Killgore
3 Sex Cult Members Convicted of Murdering Marine’s Wife for ‘Sadistic Pleasure’
California man and woman get life in torture murder of Marine’s wife
Sex cult murder: sadomasochists convicted for killing Marine wife who refused rough sex
Dorothy Maraglino: Sex Dungeon, Masters, Slaves Topic in ID’s ‘Murder Among Friends’ in Case of Louis Perez and Jessica Lopez


When the battered corpse of a young woman turns up on the outskirts of Fallbrook, California, detectives unravel a secret world where dominance, sadomasochism, and manipulation reign. -Investigation Discovery