Military shame uncovered

Military shame uncovered

Bennett-Haigney, Lisa

While certain charges of sexual harassment and abuse involving service members grab the headlines, others wither in silence. The stories that dominate the news proceed with millions watching, public scrutiny making those cases diffcult to ignore.

The military- the U.S. Army in particular – has touted new efforts to respond to and prevent sexual misconduct in the ranks, but there are still criminal acts that the top brass would rather not see surface.

In an impassioned speech to NOW members, Vice President-Membership Karen Johnson urged activists to spread the word on a story that has received almost no media attention. An Army sergeant stationed in Bamberg, Germany, contacted NOW, President Clinton and members of Congress, outraged that “the rapists of my little girl walked away with mere separation from the Army.” U.S. Sen Carol Moseley-Braun, D-III., and Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., have since initiated congressional inquiries into the case.

In 1996, Staff Sgt. Kenneth Orange and Pvt. 1 st Class James Okimey were granted discharges by Commanding Major General Montgomery C. Meigs in lieu of courts-martial. The men were charged with lying, adultery and having sex with a 12-year-old girl.

The men admitted having sex with the girl, who was spending the night with her best friend in Orange ‘s home, but said that she had consented. Both men were in the father’s unit, and Orange was the stepfather of the girl’s best friend.

Neither of the accused men was subject to pre-trial confinement, although Orange lived less than 100 feet from the girl’s home. She was forced to walk by his house every day.

When the child became pregnant as a result ofthe rapes, the father told Johnson, his commander strongly recommended an abortion from a civilian doctor as the best solution for his daughter and the command. She refused an abortion, and the family subsequently experienced harassment and isolation from within the chain of command.

The family’s situation worsened. The father was barred from re-enlistment, and the daughter ultimately returned to the U.S. to live with her mother.

Johnson called NOW members to action. “These men now live in Opelika, Alabama, and Philadelphia,” she said, “and I’m asking your help in tracking them down, letting the press know about this case and letting neighbors know that they have an admitted pedophile in their neighborhood.”

Johnson said activists can express their outrage over this case and urge an outside, independent investigation into military abuse of women by contacting the Army’s top officials:

Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Gen. Dennis Reimer, 200 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310; 703-545-6700

Secretary of the Army, The Honorable Togo West, 200 Army Pentagon, Washington, DC 20310; 703-695-3211.

Copyright National Organization for Women, Inc. Jan 1998

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