Veterans Administration Brutalizes Raped Soldier

In 1986, 18 year old aspiring nurse, Virginia “Ginny” Lee, enlisted in the US Army. Two weeks into Basic Training she was raped by her Drill Sergeant. No complaint was made; no police report was filed; the incident was simply explained away by her attacker, a man the Army expected her to trust.

Shortly after her rape, Ginny missed her period.

Unaware that elevated physical exertion associated with Basic Training can change a woman’s menstrual cycle, Lee, fearing pregnancy, sought medical attention. Inevitably this medical appointment was reported to her Drill Sergeant who assumed she reported the rape. He cornered her, beat her and threw the young soldier into a wall shattering her shoulder. More medical attention was needed, and yes, this too was easily explained away as a training accident

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For Ginny, relief seemed to come when she finished basic and finally shipped out. However, Lee’s relief proved to be an illusion, when one day, she came face to face with her former Drill Sergeant and rapist, who had pursued her across the globe to Germany.

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I remained silent as Ginny choked back the tears and described the range of emotions that flooded her life when she realized her attacker would now, once again, become part of her military life.

Today, decades later, with the help of the folks at “Purple Heart” Ginny struggles with a Veterans Administration glibly refusing to recognize the cause of Lee’s very real physical and psychological scars and the post-traumatic syndrome disorder (PTSD) that plagues her life.

Anyone who has gone through Military Basic Training understands the value of keeping your head down and your mouth shut. Apparently, this rule also applies to the sexually brutalized after they are discharged. As per Veteran’s Administration policy guidelines, unless a soldier filed a police report, contracted a sexually transmitted disease from their attacker or was impregnated, no rape could have occurred, and no service connected disability will be granted.

Imagine the fear and anxiety that overwhelms a victim of military sexual trauma like Ginny. Imagine the long term stress and consequential debilitation. Hope is foreign to victims of military rape and sexual assault. For veterans like Ginny Lee, government violation and betrayal are part of her life she cannot shake off.

After leaving the Army, Lee managed to acquire a double Master’s Degree in Nursing and Business Administration. For years she worked in various private hospitals, caring for our wounded veterans who were transitioning back to civilian life. She lights up when she reminisces about her post-military service to our country. My gut tells me she is one born to nurse. However, a string a family deaths, broken marriages and years of suppressed emotions—related to her active duty rape and assault— eventually began to strangle her thoughts and destroy her life.

Upon her discharge, Lee was granted a 30% VA disability rating for the shoulder injury she sustained during her Basic Training. Conveniently omitted from her file is the post rape beating that caused her service connected disability.

This purposeful omission, like her rape, follows Lee as she fights with an unyielding VA for help. In addition, although Ginny was one of the first women to participate in a study of the effects of military sexual trauma, according to the VA, Ginny’s PTSD is not service connected. Previously denied, Lee’s PTSD VA disability claim is currently under appeal.

Lee has met each and every VA requirement necessary to prove the nexus between her unreported military rape and beating, and her resulting disability. Yet the VA, acting in violation of its own policies, refuses to acknowledge her rape induced PTSD disability claim. Even an affidavit from her former XO, an Army Colonel, acknowledging Lee’s informal reporting of the rape in private conversations, has gone ignored. Why?

After the appointment and confirmation of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, an effort to change the culture of rape that exists in our military has been pursued. Neglected is the legislation necessary to force the Veterans Administration and its leadership to pursue steps to help veterans like Ginny.

In the past, like many Americans, I have neglected to show any real concern for our veterans and active duty military victims of rape and sexual trauma. After speaking with Ginny, I now feel a profound sense of shame for that neglect. Like so many veterans issues, our culture, the American culture is not engaged on the issue of Military Sexual Assault. Now is the time to engage. We owe veterans like Ginny. Not only for their service, but for having the courage to come forward to tell their story.

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