Military Sexual-Assault Victim Tells Her Story to Social Workers Conference
Thursday, April 27, 2017
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A retired army lieutenant colonel is telling her story of surviving sexual assault, and explaining to social workers what it's like to have her commanders retaliate against her for speaking out.
Teresa James was nearing the end of her career with the West Virginia National Guard when she was assaulted by a superior officer in December 2006. She didn't report the crime for several years, until she became increasingly concerned it could happen again to another woman.
"Some of my subordinates were being sexually harassed by the same person,” James said. "I felt a duty and an obligation to report it, and I thought I would have the support of the West Virginia National Guard. But that didn't happen."
James said her charges were confirmed by an investigation, as eventually were her charges that she suffered reprisals for coming forward. James told her story during the National Association of Social Workers West Virginia spring conference in Charleston on Wednesday. She said it's important for counselors to know why military victims don't always report the crime.
Eventually James was allowed to retire for medical reasons. But she said her attacker was given the same kind of medical discharge - with full retirement benefits - after what James said was a slap on the wrist.
She said it's routine for ranking officers to minimize an ugly accusation such as sexual assault. A military unit can be a small community, she said, and the officers don't want to be embarrassed by having a crime happen under their command.
"Everybody knew who the perpetrator was,” she said. “So they tried to sweep it under the rug and keep it as low key as possible."
James said making charges of rape, assault or sexual harassment can be seen as signs of weakness in the military.
"There are a lot of people who have been assaulted and don't talk about it. You're supposed to be tough, you're supposed to be resilient, and those were some of the comments that I was even told,” James said.
The NASW West Virginia Spring Conference is the largest event of its kind in the country. It runs through Friday at the Charleston Civic Center.
get more stories like this via email
The Iowa League of Women Voters plans to ask the Iowa Legislature to rethink the voting restrictions put in place prior to last month's midterm electi…
Agriculture groups and government agencies aren't slowing down in trying to convince farmers to use more sustainable practices such as cover crops…
Winter is here, leaving many older South Dakotans vulnerable to social isolation. But a growing body of research, as well as opportunities, shows …
By Jala Forest / Broadcast version by Nadia Ramlagan Reporting for the Kent State-Ohio News Connection Collaboration Nearly 40% of college students a…
The Biden administration has proposed a rule to limit methane flaring from oil and gas development on public lands. The rule would impose royalty …
The flu, COVID and RSV are rapidly spreading in Kentucky, and health experts say that's a problem for hospitals, schools and the state's vulnerable …
As its 125th anniversary nears, the Connecticut Audubon Society has released a report detailing the effectiveness of conservation efforts in the …
2022 was a banner year for women elected as governor. Nearly one-third of America's governors will be women next year, which is a record. Iowa …