Today, Protect Our Defenders Advocacy Committee member Kate Weber joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to share her personal story of assault, how her chain of command failed her, and called on Congress to support Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA). Kate is a fierce advocate for victims of military sexual assault. She appeared in the Oscar nominated documentary, “The Invisible War”. And earlier this year, Kate was named the 2013 California Woman Veteran Leader of the Year.
My name is Katie Weber. I am a U.S. Army Veteran and a survivor of Military Rape. I have lived with the horror of my sexual assault and the failing of my command for over 17 years. I have dealt with the PTSD, depression, anxiety, and nightmares that have resulted from my assault, retaliation and inadequate care and treatment. And, today as I work with older and younger veterans who were victims of rape and assault, and then suffered retaliation by their command, I witness first hand the human cost of this crisis. And, of the failure to provide service members an independent, impartial justice system.
At the age of 18, I was violently raped by another soldier. I had been stationed in Germany at the downsizing Nuremberg Base as part of a movement control team for less than 1 month. I was an E2. My rapist was a higher-ranking soldier in charge of finances. He had issued me a check earlier in the day, and later that night when I saw him at an event he asked me to step outside to talk to him about my paychecks. When we got outside, he attacked and raped me.The next morning, I told my battle buddy, who was older and higher ranking than me. Instead of offering help, she immediately went and told my rapist that I had accused him of rape. When I told my superiors, they simply suggested I get a “check up.” I went to the hospital, where I was examined by an O-6 Lt. Col. He noted that there was bruising on my cervix but did not conduct a rape kit examination. On my file he wrote, “alleges she was sexually assaulted.”
When I got back to my barracks that night, I found my rapist there waiting for me. He grabbed me by my neck and threatened me, saying he had a “pregnant wife.”
Although I reported my rape to multiple superiors in my chain of command, they each chose to help cover up the crime instead of initiating an investigation. When I asked for counseling and support, it was denied. Instead, I was forced out for failing my PT requirement.
When I needed help, my chain of command failed me. When I spoke up, I was ostracized and labeled “that girl” who will ruin your career if you talk to her. It has been almost 17 years since my rape and retaliation, and it has taken me just as long to recover and start living like a normal person again.
I want my fellow Americans to hear me and to know that this crisis is persisting and growing.
In addition to caring for my family, I have devoted my life to helping these young men and women whose careers were ended because they were assaulted by often-higher ranking and more valued perpetrators. Help us stop this abuse of our service men and women. They deserve a justice system equal to the system provided their fellow citizens. The current system is rotten. It is un-American.
As a victim, survivor, and advocate, I want to urge every senator to support the Military Justice Improvement Act. Senator Gillibrand has listened and addressed our explicit pleas for safety and justice. Victims of rape and sexual assault in the military have lost faith. Commanders often treat victims like they are the problem, not the person who raped them. When victims experience fallout from the rape—like I did when I failed my PT test—commanders are not supportive, but instead punish the victim and push them out of the service.
I joined the military in the wake of the Tailhook scandal thinking that the military knew about the problem of sexual assault and was committed to fixing it. Now, 17 years later, I look back and see that nothing has changed. Through my work with Protect Our Defenders and other organizations, I speak almost daily with victims who are continuing to face obstacles from their commanders and dealing with retaliation and ostracization for coming forward.
When I heard General Welsh tell congress that sexual assault was part of a “hook up” mentality, it screamed loud and clear to the entire survivor community and active duty service members that the military brass still looks to blame the victim or at the very least doesn’t get the problem. How can commanders, who don’t fully understand the problem, be expected to impartially and objectively decide how to handle a case of rape or sexual assault?
Yesterday, we delivered letters from survivors who are constituents to those Senators who are undecided. Survivors are sharing the most intimate details of the worst moments of their entire life to finally make everyone understand.
Now I am calling on our country’s leaders, to make the changes that will assure that others will not be forced to suffer as we have.