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: