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A Recording of a Military Sexual Harassment Investigation Shows How Flawed the System Is

Two years ago, Katie Rapp was sent home from Afghanistan after reporting multiple incidents of sexual harassment. In March 2013, she was told to meet Lt. Col. Lisa Gammon at a Perkins restaurant in Ohio to discuss the investigation into her claims. She went to the interview with Kori Cioca, a survivor of military assault who advised Rapp to record the conversation in case it didn’t go well. Rapp has since shared the recording with Buzzfeed News.

Rapp’s experience (which, firstly, seems misplaced in a restaurant) was one of suspicion and, in Rapp’s words, “four straight hours of victim-blaming.” This attitude is pervasive in the military, a culture that continues to struggle with allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Since 2006, more than 95,000 service members have been sexually assaulted in the U.S. military, and more than 86% of service members do not report their assault.

Rapp’s interview with Gammon begins to explain why survivors may be so hesitant to report the issues to their leaders. Rapp says that after she endured harassment for weeks (both in pre-mobilization training and in Afghanistan), she reported it to her captain, Todd Kaiser.

He told her to “cut the crap,” and assigned her to a different platoon.

In the recorded interview, Gammon questions Rapp’s actions and defends her harassers. She makes statements like, “You have to understand, this is an all-male unit; they don’t know how to deal with women,” and asks, “Why didn’t you tell him this was inappropriate or uncomfortable?” The man in question was Rapp’s first sergeant, a higher rank than her.

In about 30 days, Rapp will learn whether she’ll get an honorable medical discharge from the military (what she wants) or have to stay until her contract ends in 2018.

Her case is sadly not unique. Documentaries like The Invisible War and MAKERS: Women in War tell other stories of women who were shamed and discharged after reporting assault and harassment. And like in Rapp’s case, their harassers often continue service and go on to promotions. Lawmakers like Tulsi Gabbard and Kristen Gillibrand are fighting to make military sexual assault more visible and fairly addressed, while groups like Service Women’s Action Network support the conversation too.

To learn more, read Buzzfeed News’ complete story and check out the films below.

MAKERS: Women in War

Image via Getty

Tags: Women in War