In 2007, Annie Kendzior received exciting news. As a high-school junior and one of the best soccer players in the country, she had netted an offer of an early appointment to the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Congressman Kenny Marchand, who represents Kendzior’s hometown of Southlake, Texas, said the Naval Academy had asked him to give Kendzior the news a whole year early so that they could ensure she didn’t accept another college offer. It was the only time in Marchand’s eight years of giving out nominations that his office has ever received such a request. The news was a big deal in Southlake—the local paper ran Kendzior’s photograph alongside an article that brimmed with small-town pride. Her father, Russell, an accident-prevention expert and the founder of the National Floor Safety Institute, told the paper that his daughter had received offers from 32 other schools. But Kendzior had chosen the USNA because she wanted the opportunity to serve the nation. “Here is a 17-year-old girl wanting to go off and serve her country,” he said. “And we are at war.”
Four years later, Kendzior was receiving a very different kind of news from the Naval Academy. In July 2011, she was brought before an academic committee, where she heard testimony that military medical staff had diagnosed her with a “long-standing disorder of character and behavior” and that she had been deemed “unsuitable for continued military service.” The committee unanimously agreed that Kendzior possessed “insufficient aptitude to become a commissioned officer” and recommended her for “disenrollment.” She was honorably discharged.
How, in that short span of time, had Annie Kendzior gone from star athlete and honor student to expulsion? According to the Naval Academy, she had a “borderline personality disorder” and thereby not only unfit for service, but also in need of long-term treatment the military couldn’t provide. According to Kendzior and her father, it’s because she reported her rape.
TRIGGER WARNING for sexual assault
As a child I’d always wanted to serve my country so joining the U.S. Coast Guard was a dream come true, I loved the discipline, the camaraderie and helping others. There was just one problem —my supervisor. From the moment I came under his charge, he singled me out for abuse and harassment. My appeals to his superiors fell on deaf ears, and one night he entered my room, hit me so hard he dislocated my jaw, and then raped me.
When I stumbled out from my bunkroom to report the incident, I was told by my commander (a close friend of my assailant) that I was a liar and “disrespectful non-rate.” Five years since the incident, I am no longer in the coast guard and my jaw still has not received surgery while my assailant continues to enjoy a successful military career.
The real horror though is that my story is not unique. I am one one of hundreds of thousands of men and women who’ve been raped by fellow soldiers while serving their country and then disbelieved and exiled. All too often, we ourselves are punished for reporting, and eventually, despite laudable careers, discharged.
According to Department of Defense estimates, over 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the military in 2010 alone. Over the past 5 decades, more than 500,000 U.S. Soldiers have been assaulted.
Even worse, unlike the civilian world where rape victims can turn to an impartial police force and justice system for help, in the military, rape victims can only appeal to their command—a move that is all too often met with foot-dragging at best, and harsh reprisals at worse. As a result, only eight percent of military sexual assault cases are prosecuted, and far less result in significant prison time.
We, as a society, can no longer allow this criminal epidemic to continue unabated. We are losing too many good soldiers to an unjust system.
Please join us in asking the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Howard “Buck” McKeon and the Chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, Carl Levin and the leadership of the House and Senate to support the STOP Act and the Holley Lynn James Act in 2012.
These two bills would be the first steps in attempting to alleviate the suffering of military sexual trauma survivors and your overwhelming support of this legislature will send a clear message to the Department of Defense that it needs to take immediate measures to take the decision to investigate and prosecute rape crimes out of the hands of commanders.
Thanks for caring,