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The Dark Side of the Prestigious Marine Barracks
Posted on May 8, 2012
The Marine Corps finally court-martialed one of Klay’s alleged attackers but didn’t convict him of rape, instead finding him guilty of adultery and indecent language (a common escape by military courts from the rape charge). The military court ruled that Klay “consented” to having sex with the men despite the evidence that the accused threatened to kill her.
Klay has attempted suicide since the alleged rapes and harassment and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lt. Elle Helmer
In 2005, Helmer was appointed the public affairs officer for the Barracks, the federal lawsuit says. In 2006, she was selected to also serve as the first female “ceremonial parade staff flanking officer.” Helmer alleged that the “selecting” officer, a Marine captain, made continuing sexual advances to her that she reported to the Marine Barracks equal opportunity officer. Nothing was done to stop the advances, Helmer said.
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Helmer became intoxicated and left the group to find a cab home. She said the major followed her and told her that she must come with him to his office to discuss a business matter. When they reached his office, Helmer alleges, the major tried to kiss her and when she resisted he grabbed her and knocked her over. She says she lost consciousness at that point.
Upon regaining consciousness, she said, she found herself lying on the floor in the major’s office, wearing his shorts. He was allegedly passed out on the floor nearby, naked.
Helmer left the office and reported to the Marine Command that she had been raped. She alleges the colonel there discouraged her from asking for a rape kit examination, saying it would “be out of his hands.” Nonetheless, Helmer got a medical examination that employed a rape kit.
NCIS initially refused to investigate Helmer’s allegations, despite the medical and circumstantial evidence, saying that her inability to recall the incident precluded any investigation. After a delay in which the alleged crime scene was destroyed, NCIS eventually conducted a brief investigation and because of Helmer’s lack of consciousness during the incident concluded that nothing could be done. Additionally, the Marine Corps reported it had lost the Helmer rape kit, the medical evidence allegedly indicating rape.
Helmer took the case to the major’s superior officer, who acknowledged that the NCIS investigation was “woefully inadequate” and removed the major from his command. No further steps were taken, the lawsuit alleges. Helmer says the superior officer told her, “You’re from Colorado—you’re tough. You need to pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I can’t baby-sit you all of the time.”
Helmer says she was eventually forced to leave the Marine Corps. The alleged rapist remains a Marine officer in good standing.
Rape Reporting in the Military
The Department of Defense estimates that only 20 percent of military personnel who experience “unwanted sexual contact” report it to military authorities because the accusations can be met with suspicion and the victims can experience retaliation.
In 2009, 3,230 service members reported being raped or sexually assaulted, but the Department of Defense estimated that 16,150 actually were raped or sexually assaulted during that year.
In 2010, 3,158 military personnel reported sexual assault or rape. The DOD estimated 15,790 were actually raped or assaulted.
In addition, in 2010, 68,379 veterans had at least one VA outpatient visit related to military sexual trauma. About 40 percent of those outpatients—nearly 27,000 —requesting treatment for military sexual trauma were male veterans.
Retaliatory Culture for Those Reporting Rape
The Department of Defense has finally quantified the retaliatory culture of the military. The DOD 2010 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military found that 44 percent of active-duty women and 20 percent of active-duty men who had been victims of sexual assaults or rapes did not report them because “they thought their performance evaluation or chance for promotion would suffer.” Even more decided not to report because they “thought they would be labeled a troublemaker.”
Most rapists evade any form of punishment, much less incarceration. The DOD sexual assaults report said that fewer than 8 percent of suspected perpetrators were court-martialed and convicted, while in civilian life 40 percent of the accused were prosecuted. Most military personnel who have committed rape or sexual assault are allowed to be honorably discharged; if they’re forced to retire, they still receive their full benefits.
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