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Feature Series: "An 'Occupational Hazard': Rape in the Military"

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in August 2012.

by Ariana Pekary

This week, The Bob Edwards Show presents a special series, “An ‘Occupational Hazard’: Rape in the Military.”  One in three of active-duty women serving the U.S. military have reported being the victim of sexual assault while serving, which is double the rate for civilians.  Based on estimates from the Department of Defense, 19,000 servicemen and women were attacked in 2010; however, a vast majority of those violent acts don’t get reported because in the military, victims are required to report within their chain of command.  As such, only eight-percent are brought to justice.  Defending itself in civilian court in 2011, the Pentagon argued that sexual assault is an “occupational hazard” in the military.  

Ariana Klay was assaulted by a fellow Marine Officer and his friend at her home near Marine Barracks Washington. Bob interviewed Ariana and her husband Ben in that same home.Today’s program presents a portrait of the enduring culture in the military which protects criminals while creating a mental, physical and professional trap for the victims.  We hear intimate details from servicemen and women and their families about how Military Sexual Trauma has been a destructive force in their lives.  Advocates share stories and describe why this issue has become their passion.  And lastly, we visit Capitol Hill to hear lawmakers struggle to reform one of the largest and most powerful institutions in the world: the U.S. military.

Ben Klay learned about his wife’s rape after he caught her trying to kill herself.  Ariana and Ben were both Marine Officers at the time, both had deployed to war zones, and yet, both say the ugliest battle they’ve witnessed took place right here at home.  Ben captures the sentiment of many interviewed throughout this series:

“The ultimate betrayal is the senior leadership.  It’s not farfetched that there are bad people in this world but it baffles the mind to think that the most powerful and possibly the most respected institution in the United States perpetuates, condones, covers up rape and attacks the women, who have been raped in the most degrading way.”

This is a problem that spans the military academies, the active military, and even reaches the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Each day this week, The Bob Edwards Show will feature detailed interviews with victims, their family members and service providers.

 Annie Kendzior was raped twice her first year at the Naval Academy, then dismissed within months of reporting the assaults her third year.


Elle Helmer served as a Marine Officer at Marine Barracks Washington where she was attacked by a superior. He was never prosecuted.



































Additional Resources:

Protect Our Defenders:


The Soldiers Project, which provides free, confidential psychological services:


Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for FY 2011:


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Reader Comments (7) There are several videos posted on YouTube trying to bring this attention to the public. Thank you for these wonderful reports

July 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Rhein

It's just like the Penn State cover-up.
Thanks for bringing up this tough subject most people don't want to hear about.

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn Eldredge

The Few. The Silent. The Marines.

After listening to programs in your Occupational Hazard series I was shocked, sickened, and ultimately saddened.
This prestigious corps that claims a heritage of honor has incubated a culture of mute misogynistic evil that answers to no higher power.

Is this the price of freedom?

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdavid wachter

I visited my son recently at an Air Force base overseas. He had a beer can opener on his key chain with a VERY rude description of women along with the division he works in. In a military culture were they are told what to wear and how to cut their hair, you can't convince me that this sort of rude item can't be banned. I think it is a "boys will be boys attitude" in the military but I find it unacceptable and the seeds of wrong thinking toward women. I told my son that I didn't want to see that on his key chain when he came home to family and by the time his newborn daughter was old enough to ask, "what's this Daddy?" it should be long gone.

August 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeach

I am saddened to hear this and I am sickened to think that I walked many times past this barracks on my way to and from a job at the Washington Navy Yard. I'm ashamed to have ever been associated with that organization even as a civilian contractor. This organization is no different than Penn State or the Catholic Church in their institutional behavior and values. Cover it up and if you can't do that stonewall and if you can't do that lie about it. Punish the victims and protect the perpetrators with your so called authority. (I would include my email, but I fear retaliation give the way these people act.)

My wife and I have worked for our men and women serving in the Navy since 1985, so I was filled with disgust after hearing the Bob Edwards Sirius XM radio show "An 'Occupational Hazard': Rape in the Military". It struck at the core of what Judy and I have worked for, so I had to investigate and sadly I believe it is true.
When we were considering colleges for Julie, there were a lot of positives about military service that I thought Julie should consider. The occupational hazard of being shot in combat was a nonstarter for mom Judy. However I felt that the risk of taking a bullet for our country is what Judy and I have spent 27 years working to minimize and we should account that into the decision. A far as safety at a military academy, I knew there would be hazing which from my fraternity experience was wet, dirty, late night uncomfortable, and mostly stupid stuff but rarely dangerous. However we didn’t consider the risk of sexual assault, to us it had to be better than other large colleges. We work with a lot of military officers and enlisted and they watch their conduct as if everyone is watching; which they are. Our experience has been missteps are corrected swiftly and abuses are career ending. Whenever serious abuses happen anywhere in the executive branch, we all get continuous yearly training because any abuse is a reason to lose your eligibility for security clearance. In our minds, inside the military was much safer from sexual assaults than outside the military. I am sickened to say the numbers don’t agree with that premise.
I have never been a witness of a sexual assault but I know people who have told me they have been victims and have not reported it. How prevalent or rare is it? The Bureau of Justice Statistics is the statistical agency of the U.S. Department of Justice and publishes a annual report on Criminal Victimization which estimates rates of crimes both reported and those not reported to police, the latest report I could find was published in October 2010 and covers 2009. It reports that the rate of sexual assault in 2008 was 8 in 10,000 and in 2009 was 5 in 10,000. One is too many; however these numbers are consistent with my life long experience of never seeing any but knowing a few that have been. It is too high but rare.
If it is rare in society how rare is it in our military? The Office of the Secretary of Defense reports an active duty military strength of 1,435,450 on March 31, 2012. Using 6.5 per 10,000, the average of two years estimated in society as a whole, an expected 933 reported and unreported sexual assaults would take place each year. Even this number is disgusting; however the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for fiscal year 2011 has the reported number of sexual assaults to be 3,492 and estimates that this represents only 14% of the total which would be 24,943. That is about 1.7% of the active military. To be fair the reports does have some caveats about comparing these numbers to non military numbers; however there definition of reported Sexual Assault is “rape, aggravated sexual assault, nonconsensual sodomy, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact, wrongful sexual contact, and attempts to commit these offenses”. This means that if you have a thirty year military career it is likely you know several victims or been a victim or deserve death because you are a predator.
Is it less rare at our Military Academies? Let’s hope so since we send best and brightest High school students there with a congressional recommendation. The report of the Air force academy class of 2015 has: 17% were either High School Class President or Vice-President, 11% were either Valedictorian or Salutatorian, 26% were in Boy/Girl Scouts, 12% were Eagle Scout/Gold Award, and 82% Athletic Letter Award. The total enrolment for the class of 2015 for Army, Air Force and Navy academies is Air force academy is 3627, which means a 4 year student population of about 14,508 plus maybe 1,000 in administration. Again using 6.5 per 10,000 for society as a whole we would expect maybe 10 sexual assaults per year. The report on sexual harassment and violence at the military service academies shows the reported average of about 40 per year from 2005 through 2011. If the reported is only 14% of the total that means the military academies have 285 sexual assaults per year in a population of about 15,500. This is 1.8% of the academy population which higher than the sexual assaults in the active military as a whole.
I was wrong in thinking the military would be a good choice for my daughter. I would discourage any other father who is thinking of sending their daughter too. Since the sexual assaults include assaults against boys too I wouldn’t want to send a son either. However some will go and become victims. What about the predators, why are there so many? Are they attracted to the military? Is there something inherent in military service that makes predators? If the military thinks sexual assault is an occupational hazard we are creating a haven for sexual predators. Dangerous Disturbing and Disgusting!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn B Walker

i'm writing my senators and congressman

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdonn

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