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Utah women among 19 suing over military sexual assault

Department of Defense estimates just 6% of those who commit sexual assault in the military do any time in jail.

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‘A great need’ » The Department of Defense said it received reports of 3,393 victims of sexual assault in fiscal 2011, but a DoD survey the year before indicated there may be as many as 19,000 assaults and rapes each year.

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Factoring in the unreported assaults, only 6 percent of perpetrators ever spend a day in jail, the DoD sexual assault report for 2011 said.

Breeze Hannaford, a therapist who coordinates the military sexual assault (MST) program at Salt Lake City’s Veterans Affairs hospital, says many victims don’t seek treatment for years after struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression or other issues.

But lately, the numbers are soaring. In fiscal 2011, 450 male and 484 female veterans were receiving care related to MST in the Salt Lake VA’s region, which includes most of Utah and parts of eastern Nevada and southeast Idaho. "The numbers are dramatically increased since then," Hannaford says.

Group therapy often works well for such victims, and the VA has added more groups. Even so, the men’s group, two women’s groups and one co-ed group cannot keep up with demand, she says.

"We have a great need and not quite enough staff to do it."

Garner, according to the lawsuit, served with a U.S. Army Reserves unit in Ogden from January 2002 to July 2010. It alleges her commanders and peers harassed and retaliated against her after she reported being raped by a soldier from another platoon. The assault occurred while she was intoxicated and passed out in her bed in Afghanistan in 2009.

Her attacker "was charged only with adultery, indecent acts and lying on an official form," the suit said. "The military did nothing other than reduce the rapist’s rank and impose a fine. The rapist was never incarcerated or discharged from the service."

Garner could not be reached for comment on Friday. The suit said she was stripped of her eligibility for promotion and threatened with punishment for drinking, even though no one else who was drinking was charged.

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During the criminal investigation, she had to live in a tent separated from her attacker by one other tent, the suit said, and was forced to attend events and training exercises with him.

Hoping for justice » Smith says her rapist, who was then 55, was never disciplined and was allowed to retire with full benefits.

She was 17 when she enlisted in the Army Reserves on a delayed entry basis. She would drive to Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City to drill with her unit, and graduated from basic training the week terrorists struck the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Smith trained as a Korean linguist in Monterey, Calif., but her superiors sent her to Fort Lewis in Washington in the winter of 2003 for a medical board to determine whether she could stay in the Army. Stress fractures she suffered in basic training and a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder had superiors concerned about her future.

After five or six days of hospital evaluation, she was sent to the medical hold company, where soldiers await medical board decisions on their cases.

Her first night in the barracks, after an evening of camaraderie with 15 or so other soldiers, she awoke to find a man raping her.

She screamed, and two soldiers at the charge-of-quarters desk saw a man fleeing her room.

The assailant — a 55-year-old soldier who had acted grandfatherly to Smith the night before — signed a written confession, Smith said she was told by police.

Nonetheless, Smith said, he was never punished.

Her commander told her the Army would have to prosecute her for some unspecified crime if it prosecuted her rapist.

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