North Texas Daily

Deaths of LaVena Johnson and others spotlight systemic abuse within military

Deaths of LaVena Johnson and others spotlight systemic abuse within military

Deaths of LaVena Johnson and others spotlight systemic abuse within military
July 20
14:19 2020

A woman’s workspace should not be a place she fears to go to when she wakes up in the morning. As the list of high-profile men accused of sexual harassment and assault grows, a shift in the workplace is being demanded by society. We can only imagine how many stories are going unheard because of the thought of being ignored due to their harasser having higher power than her. Which causes a hostile workspace not just for the victims of sexual harassment but for other employees who are scared to speak up as well.

The military is just one example of a work environment where sexual harassment gets ignored and pushed under the rug. In the fiscal year 2018, 20,500 service members were sexually assaulted or raped. Of those 20,500, 13,000 of them were women. The rate for sexual assault among women had increased by 50%, the highest level since 2006.

One in three women who join the U.S. Military will be sexually assaulted or raped by men in the military. The warnings to women should begin above the doors of the military recruiting stations, as that is where assaults on women in the military begin — before they are even recruited. When will the military step up and act on sexual assault? The death of women in the military that have “noncombat-related injures” should be looked at more thoroughly.

It is going on 15 years since the death of LaVena Lynn Johnson who died in Iraq in 2005. The young woman died just a few days before her 20th birthday. The military ruled her death a suicide but the way her body was left raised concerns for many. The size of the weapon that was used to cause Johnson’s “self-inflicted” wound shows it was nearly impossible for a woman of her size to do it herself.

When they informed her parents of her death, they requested that they have a closed casket. Her father knew that was a sign of foul play and did not want to have the casket closed. Note that they requested this before the parents were even able to identify her body. When they finally got the chance to see their once-beautiful smiling daughter, her body showed no signs of suicide.

The family struggled to receive new information on their daughter’s death. Two years after begging for more information on what truly happened, they received a CD that had photos showing the crime scene and it was much more gruesome than what the family expected. Looking at the photos, how can the military claim this was a suicide when the photos showed otherwise. How could there be a determination of suicide if there was a blood trail outside of the tent?

While Johnson’s story is not the only one that is being covered up it is one of the top cases that need to be reopened and investigated more. A year later in Iraq, 20-year-old Pfc. Tina Priest was raped while stationed at Camp Taji. She reported the rape to her mother and two weeks later was found dead in her room.

We are starting to see a recurring cycle in similar cases and how women are found killed after being assaulted and speak out about it. The military also takes its time when it comes to investigating the case as well as charging the people who are responsible for the damages they caused to these women and their families. The families seek help from people of higher power, but still receive the same run around about getting proper answers.

It is so many stories of a woman coming up missing and later found dead somewhere that have joined the military. The recent case of Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance only gained the attention it needed to find this missing soldier due to the help of social media platforms. It should not take the media to bully the military to spur an investigation into what happened to Guillen.

What happened to these women and many others speaks on a broken system and resembles a rouge government rather than a branch to serve this country. It should not take the work of the media to draw attention to what’s happing in the military. I urge everyone to investigate these cases as well as others that have gone unnoticed and seek justice for these women. This country has failed them and if we do not help, then we have failed them as well.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Daija Bostic

Daija Bostic

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2 Comments

  1. RJ
    RJ December 29, 13:17

    As a service member I take offense to this article. There is nothing factual about this. I want to know where the “information” and “statistics” came from. Does this stuff happen? Yes. Is it unacceptable? Definitely.

    Reply to this comment
  2. jen
    jen January 08, 18:54

    I am just disgusted! These poor woman & thier families. Did Lavenas caae get reopened?

    Reply to this comment

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