"An 'Occupational Hazard': Rape in the Military" documentary earns RFK Journalism Award

Today The Bob Edwards Show is featuring an encore presentation of its original documentary, “An ‘Occupational Hazard’: Rape in the Military.”  The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights has recognized this feature with its Journalism Award for Radio.  We congratulate all of the winners announced July 15.

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 (in 2012, that number has increased to 26,000).  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.  Annie Kendzior was dismissed from the Naval Academy after reporting two incidents of rape by fellow midshipmen.

“Occupational Hazard” originally aired July 30, 2012.  Thursday we will be hearing from more victims and advocates to assess the progress that has been made in the past year.  Stay tuned.

-Ariana Pekary, producer

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

Additional Resources:

Protect Our Defenders: http://www.protectourdefenders.com/

Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN): http://servicewomen.org/

The Soldiers Project, which provides free, confidential psychological services for servicemembers:http://www.thesoldiersproject.org/

More about the STOP Act: http://speier.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=205&Itemid=47

Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for FY 2012: http://www.sapr.mil/index.php/annual-reports

Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for FY 2011: http://www.sapr.mil/media/pdf/reports/Department_of_Defense_Fiscal_Year_2011_Annual_Report_on_