We Will Not Stand For It: Demanding Accountability For US Contractors Overseas

Note to readers: Feministing is honored to have Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28) guest posting today on the KBR rape cover-up and violence against contractors abroad.
lslaughter.jpgYesterday, I, and over 100 of my colleagues, took a serious step to breaking the dangerous “boys will be boys� attitude that has been allowed to fester for far too long among United States government contractors in Iraq and around the world.
Many of you have heard the appalling tale of Jamie Leigh Jones, the past employee of US government contractor KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton.
While working in the Green Zone within Baghdad, Iraq, Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged, assaulted, and viciously gang raped by her coworkers. Upon learning of the attack, KBR had US Army doctors perform a medical examination showing that she had been viciously raped both anally and vaginally. After, the rape kit was turned over to KBR; she would later discover that portions of that kit had magically vanished into thin air.
Jamie Leigh was then placed under armed guard in a shipping container for 24 hours without access to food or water. There, she remained until she was rescued from her American employer by the State Department at the urging of her Member of Congress.
Over two years after these near unspeakable acts of violence and incredulously callous reaction by her employer, not only has the Justice Department not brought any criminal charges, but ABC News recently reported that they could not confirm that any federal agency was investigating the case at all.
Instead, it appears that the Departments of Justice, State, and Defense would prefer that the American public forget what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones.
It appears they do not want to rock the boat.
But this boat must be rocked. Because what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones was not an isolated incident.
It is increasingly apparent that there are many women working for United States government contractors that are regularly subject to sexual harassment, assault, and rape. And what is even more apparent, the perpetrators of these heinous acts are not held to account and justice is almost never served.
With over 20,000 Americans employed by US government contractors in Iraq alone, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are in need of a big wake-up call.
Well, yesterday morning, I sent two letters that I co-authored with Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL) and Ted Poe (TX) with the signatures of over 100 Members of the United States House of Representatives to demand answers from Secretaries Rice and Gates. We are demanding that they go on record and answer specific questions detailing the precise steps they are taking to ensure that what happened to Jamie Leigh Jones does not happen to another US contractor again.
We will not rest until these answers meet our satisfaction and there is a guarantee that criminal offenders are punished to the letter of the law and that contractors, getting rich on massive taxpayer funded contracts, are held to account.
It must be the Bush Administration’s unequivocal position that individuals working as United States government contractors, whether at home or abroad, have the same rights to treatment, services, and proper legal recourse when they are victims of a violent crime.
Take Action: Keep pressure on the Department of State and Department of Defense on the Jamie Leigh Jones case and protecting US contractors; let them know that you expect a timely and appropriate response to Rep. Slaughter’s letters.

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