KCTV5 Investigates: Military sexual assault reporting - KCTV5

KCTV5 Investigates: Military sexual assault reporting

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KCTV) -

Historic changes, proposed to the way the US military deals with reports of sexual assault, could offer hope to the thousands of men and women who, while risking their lives for their country, faced abuse within the ranks like that experienced by a woman KCTV5 is calling Adrian.

"For the rest of my life, I see myself as damaged." Adrian said. "I can't get that back."

Afraid of retaliation for telling her story, KCTV5 agreed to hide the identity of this former soldier.

"What the military did to me. What my brothers in arms did to me; I don't know if it was worth it," Adrian said.

Despite all she's been through, Adrian still holds dear the memory of the day she enlisted.

"It was a lot of pride, honor. My dad was so proud," Adrian said, while choking back tears. "I love my country. Don't get me wrong I loved serving."

But that love for country is permanently tied to a painful time during active duty tours in Middle East war zones.

"You're in combat. Not only do you have to deal with the monsters on the other side of the fence but you have to deal with monsters who are sleeping or in the same tent as you," Adrian said.

After seeing how other female soldiers who had reported incidents of sexual assaults were treated, Adrian decided against filing a rape report.

"The guy who did to me ended up doing it to five other women before a woman was taken seriously," she said.

Adrian is not alone. The Pentagon admits sexual assaults are grossly under-reported. During the 2012 fiscal year, 3,374 incidents were reported. But the military estimates the number of service members dealing with unwanted sexual advances during that time could be as high as 26,000. Click here to read the full report.

"It's a lot worse than a lot of people realized," program director of Protect Our Defenders, Miranda Petersen said.

Her Washington, DC-based advocacy group has conducted its own research on military sexual assaults.  Click here for more information.

"Sixty-two percent of the members who were anonymously surveyed last year said they faced retaliation when they actually came forward and reported their crimes," Petersen said.

Petersen's group and a growing number of US Senators want to improve the reporting rate of these incidents by removing commanders from the process.

"The only way to fix it, is to take the reporting and the prosecution out of the chain of command," Petersen said.

But the proposal to push commanders outside the system they oversee has concerned some top military brass.

"It will inhibit the commanders' ability to shape the climate and discipline of units," Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said, while testifying about the plan on Capitol Hill.

That same concern has been echoed by Missouri's U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill.

"We know our allies who have completely taken the commanders out, have not seen any increase in reporting," McCaskill said.

Instead, the Missouri's senator is backing an alternate plan moving through the senate that would limit a commander's authority – rather than strip it away entirely.

"Certainly the commander should have no say when the jury has made its decision," McCaskill said. "And that is very historic reform that I have championed."

The McCaskill says making the rule to allow civilian panels to review cases not pursued in court will change the culture and improve the public's opinion of the process.

"So the rest the rest of the military is not stained by their absolutely inappropriate behavior," McCaskill said.

And the senator thinks the proposed changes will encourage victims to put aside their fear and report more crimes.

"It (the reporting number) will continue to go up because they will get their own lawyers, and counseling and get support they need," McCaskill said.

Adrian prefers the proposal that would remove commanders from process but prays that whatever changes Washington adopts, they will give other survivors in uniform the courage to do what she felt she could not.

"I couldn't say anything," Adrian said. "I didn't want people to know I was weak or a wimp or not strong enough."

She also hopes those who've witnessed these crimes can find the strength to come forward and shine a light on those dark secrets.

"You see someone in this much pain and you see it happening, you speak up," Adrian said. You don't run or cower, you speak up."

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