US: Rape in Iraq Recounted

Publisher Name: 
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - An Illinois woman who says she was raped while
working for a contractor in Iraq recounted the experience in a
congressional hearing Wednesday.

A woman who made similar allegations before Congress last year listened and fought back tears.

Dawn
Leamon of Lena, Ill. said at a Senate subcommittee hearing she was
sodomized and forced to have oral sex by a soldier and a co-worker
after she drank a cocktail that made her feel strange.

She worked
as a paramedic for Service Employees International Inc., a foreign
subsidiary of KBR Inc., at Camp Harper near Basra, Iraq. Leamon said
the base was frequently under rocket attacks.

The alleged attack
occurred just two months after Jamie Leigh Jones, formerly of Conroe,
Texas, told a House committee she was raped by KBR/Halliburton
co-workers and held a day in a shipping container after reporting the
2005 assault.

The Associated Press does not usually identify
people who say they were sexually assaulted, but the women have made
their identities public.

Jones wiped away tears as Leamon and a
third woman, Mary Beth Keniston, spoke. Keniston, of Olmsted Falls,
Ohio, said she was assaulted in 2004 while working as a truck driver
with her husband for KBR in Iraq.

"It bothers me that it happened
again after I stood up and brought awareness to it and brought KBR to
such scrutiny," Jones said during a break.

Jones sued
Halliburton, whose former subsidiary is KBR, and is waiting for a judge
to rule if it can go to trial or be settled in arbitration. KBR and
Halliburton split last year.

Leamon, whose sons served in Iraq
and Afghanistan, said employers discouraged her from reporting the rape
and pressured her to sign an inaccurate statement with inaccurate
details.

Several days after the assault she had to provide
medical care to one of her attackers. She officially reported the rape
after she was transferred to another camp on Feb. 27 because she feared
for her safety.

"It is very easy for a person in that part of
Iraq to disappear," Leamon said. "I could disappear in a heartbeat. I
could fall. I could have a head injury and it could be explained
(away)."

Since Jones' December testimony, some lawmakers have
pressured the Bush administration to investigate sexual assault cases
like hers and hold contractors more accountable.

Florida
Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, the subcommittee's chairman, said at least
three laws give the Justice Department authority to prosecute such
cases.

"We have an unprecedented number of contractors posted in
war zones and if they are victimized by their colleagues or by
soldiers, the concern of this committee is they end up in legal limbo,"
Nelson said.

Sigal Mandelker, a Justice Department deputy
assistant attorney, told Nelson the agency takes sexual assault crimes
very seriously and has a team of investigators and prosecutors in Iraq
to handle them and other crimes.

The agency has between four and
six active investigations including one into Leamon's, Mandelker said.
But she said she didn't know of any convictions for sexual assault of a
contract employee.

"It can be extremely difficult to investigate
these cases. As you heard today it is an unfortunate fact that the
crimes occur in a war zone and there are numerous difficulties of
investigating a case when the conduct occurred in a war zone,"
Mandelker said.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne declined comment
Wednesday. In a statement Tuesday, she said reports of sexual assault
and harassment are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

AMP Section Name:War & Disaster Profiteering
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