Assaulted military personnel say military does not help them seek justice

By Robert Kirchgassner ,

Thursday’s edition on Rock Center with Brian Williams will focus on military personnel who have been sexually assaulted but have not gotten justice.

NBC reported that Natalie Morales will talk with personnel who state they have been sexually assaulted.

“When I was 10 and when I was 18 and when I was 23, the reason never changed. They were the toughest,” Claire Russo told Morales of her life-long desire to join the Marines. She would graduate fourth in her class in 2003.

However, Russo, 32, said that she was assaulted by another Marine, one Doug Dowson, a year later, during the Marine Corps Ball in San Diego.

“The next thing I remember is being on the ground in the bathroom. He was holding me down and sodomizing me and at that point, I was just crying and begging him to stop,” she tearfully said after Dowson took her to a hotel.

She said that she felt drugged after accepting a drink from Dowson at the Ball.

“I love this country,” Russo said. “But, you know, there’s a wound that will never heal. I gave the Marine Corps everything and it took from me something that I’m never going to get back.”

Her case was shut down by the Corps, although she was able to use the civilian court system since the incident occurred off base. But the Corps denied her request for a transfer, which would have distanced her from Dowson. He was eventually charged with rape and served 18 months in prison.

Russo is one of thousands of Armed Forces members, men and women, who have been sexually assaulted while in the service.

Over 3,100 members reported that they were sexually assaulted in 2011 and, according to the Defense Department, this is only a fraction of such incidents which occurred. Of those reported, only a small number are prosecuted in the military justice system.

“What all of us expect as Americans is an impartial system of justice. We don’t know the judge. We don’t know the jurors,” attorney Susan Burke, who has filed numerous lawsuits against the Defense Department due to victims who are denied justice, said. “That’s not what is happening in the military. In the military, the commanders get to decide based on their own impressions of the two people coming forward who to believe. ”

In January, the CS Monitor reported that there had been an increase in sexual assault within the Army since 2006.

Video: NBC News



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