April 9, 2008 – (Washington, DC) – RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, issued the following statement today regarding the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Democracy and Human Rights hearing, chaired by Senator Bill Nelson, “Closing Legal Loopholes: Justice for Americans Sexually Assaulted in Iraq and Afghanistan”:
“Every step of the way, it seems as though these victims encountered obstacles to justice and care...It is inexcusable for victims to be victimized yet again by their employer, who should be taking the steps necessary to ensure their personal safety.
We are deeply troubled by the allegations about the actions of KBR, particularly that civilian contractors lack access to the same rights as their military counterparts. “Every step of the way, it seems as though these victims encountered obstacles to justice and care,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN. “Regrettably their employer KBR seems to have did little to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of these alleged sexual assaults. It is inexcusable for victims to be victimized yet again by their employer, who should be taking the steps necessary to ensure their personal safety.”
“RAINN calls on Congress and the Administration to fully investigate all allegations of misconduct and negligence, and to ensure those responsible are held accountable. We urge Chairman Nelson to question KBR executives about these serious allegations of sexual assaults committed against their employees in Iraq and Afghanistan. We further urge that the practices of other civilian contractors be examined to ensure they meet the standards of justice for all Americans,” said Berkowitz.
Civilian contractors working overseas on behalf of American companies face enough dangers. They should not be forced to sacrifice their right to justice if they become a victim of a violent crime. Rape is the second most violent crime, following only murder, and should be treated as such, explained Berkowitz. “We need to do everything we can to create an environment to encourage victims to report these serious crimes, as it is only through these reports that we can put rapists behind bars, preventing future attacks and enhancing the safety of civilian contractors.”
We applaud the leadership of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Chairman Nelson for their efforts to ensure the safety of Americans working overseas. We thank the women who came forward and testified today for their courage and strength. It is only through their stories that we are able to fully comprehend the severity and magnitude of the situation.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization and was named one of “America’s 100 Best Charities” by Worth magazine. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotlines (800.656.HOPE and rainn.org) in partnership with over 1,100 local rape crisis centers across the country. The hotlines have helped more than 1.2 million people since 1994. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual assault, help victims and ensure that rapists are brought to justice. For more information about RAINN, please visit rainn.org.