The young woman testifying before Congress in the video above is Jamie Leigh Jones, an amazingly courageous young woman. Be warned, her testimony is immensely disturbing and might be triggering. Jones was gang raped in Iraq by at least seven men — all American employees of Halliburton’s former subsidiary, KBR (as she was at the time) — after drugs were put into her drink during a casual gathering of Halliburton employees. She passed out from the drug and awoke to find herself bleeding, bruised and in great pain. She had been raped anally and vaginally. She suffered such severe injuries to her breasts during the course of the rapes that she has had to undergo reconstructive surgery and must undergo more surgeries in the future. She is in constant pain.
She immediately reported the rapes and was examined by a doctor who used a rape kit. The doctor confirmed and documented that she had been anally and vaginally raped. Photos were taken of her injuries. Later, those photos and some of the evidence in the rape kit disappeared while in the custody of Halliburton/KBR.
For 24 hours after the rapes, Jones was held prisoner in a container without food and water. She was finally able to borrow a cell phone and called her father in Texas, who called his state representative, Ted Poe, a Republican. Poe contacted the State Department who contacted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Representatives of the embassy then rescued Jones.
Jones took the job with Halliburton, a U.S. multinational corporation which provides technical products and services for oil and gas exploration and production, in 2005. Halliburton is, bottom line, a war profiteer. When the U.S. goes to war, the government contracts with Halliburton/KBR and similar U.S. corporations to set up shop in the war zone to reconstruct destroyed infrastructures: power plants, telephone exchanges, sewage and sanitation systems, schools, oil pipelines. Halliburton/KBR and similar war profiteers are paid by U.S. taxpayers. In other words, the U.S. goes to war, countries are devastated, and we hire these corporations supposedly to rebuild. It’s this, among other things, which makes war such a profitable venture for the United States.
Jones was a young military wife and took the assignment in Iraq because she wanted to support the U.S. war effort. She was assigned to an all-male unit and from the beginning she complained to superiors that she was being harassed and was continually being subjected to catcalls. Those catcalls and that hostile, assaultive work environment ultimately became a gang rape which has forever changed Jones’ body, heart, soul and life.
Conyers’ Witness Questions at the KBR Rape Hearing (noting that the Department of Justice did not respond to subpoenas and is basically stiffing the entire American citizenry.)
The Department of Justice has brought no criminal charges against Jones’ rapists or against Halliburton/KBR. As a result of policies and regulations set in place primarily by the Bush Administration, contractors in Iraq are immune from prosecution under both Iraqi and US law. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers did subpoena the Justice Department after learning of what happened to Jones, but the Justice Department simply declined to appear. Short of wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that the Justice Department will hold itself in contempt for failing to abide by the subpoena, there is really nothing more Conyers can do.
After the rapes, Jones was harrassed by Halliburton/KBR and told she had two options: to make what happened to her “go away,” or to say goodbye to her job. Since her ordeal, she has learned that she is far from alone. She is one of many women who have taken jobs with Halliburton/KBR and other defense contractors overseas during wartime, who were subsequently raped by male coworkers, and who found themselves without options so far as criminal prosecution. Rape victims could keep silent and continue to work alongside their rapists and to take the risk they would be raped again, or they could blow the whistle and be fired, knowing either way, charges would not be filed.
Jones has filed a civil lawsuit against Halliburton and KBR, but KBR wants a private arbitration, which it claims is required by the employment contract Jones signed. If a private arbitration were to take place, instead of a judge, a jury and a public record available to the media and to the general public, there would be a private arbitrator hired by the parties with no official record.
Jones has created the Jamie Leigh Foundation to continue her fight for justice and to work for legislation which would protect the human and civil rights of women who are raped or otherwise sexually assaulted while working abroad for United States corporations.
The Jamie Leigh Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping United States citizens and legal residents who are victims of sexual harassment, rape and sexual abuse while working abroad for federal contractors, corporations, or government entities. We believe that overseas contractors and corporations should act responsibly, and be held accountable to provide safe housing and a work environment free of sexual harassment, and limit the potential for abuse. We believe that United States civilians who perpetrate crime while working in foreign countries should be held accountable for their actions. The Jamie Leigh foundation will assist victims through advocacy, education, referral and providing support. We work toward the day that no person shall face sexual abuse and harassment, and all persons, regardless of gender, will be able to work without fear, consternation, and safety concerns.”
Here are some ways you can immediately help:
Write your local senator or congressman asking them to:
- encourage more stringent jurisdictional guidelines for criminal prosecutions of criminal contractors who work outside of the territorial limits of the United States.
- create a protocal for forensic examinations on government contractor victims.
Sign these petitions
- Petition to hold criminal contractors accountable under enforcable Federal law to Protect Americans working for U.S. contractors in Iraq by signing for the “HR27 MEJA expansion and enforcement act of 2007” to be passed immediately.
- Petition to ban the practice of mandatory arbitration by enacting the “Arbitration and Fairness Act” without delay. This will force accountablity for the way companies treat their employees. The civil rights of workers are at sake.
- Petition to pass the Jamie Leigh Jones Act which will force contract companies who recieve federal contracts and work outside of the territorial limits of the United States to disclose to all applicants statistics on the criminal records of its employees. Crime awareness comes with crime reporting.
Read the “Slaughter-Poe” letter which might serve as a model for your own letter-writing and which provides names of legislators who have stepped up to do battle on behalf of raped employees of U.S. corporations abroad.
You can also donate to the Jamie Leigh Foundation via Paypal.
Remember that Jones was gang raped in 2005, over two years ago, and has been pursuing justice ever since. I only learned of this today, and only because of an incoming link to my article about Maria Lauterbach to a thread on bulletin boards on a site entitled “Not Alone.” At the end of the thread that linked to my blog post, there was a link to this post on AfterDowningStreet.org, which in turn led me to this post.
I found myself reeling, reading all of this. I read three major newspapers every single day. I watch the news every night at 10. I pay attention to the blogosphere and to the internet in general. I am on numerous feminist and women’s e-mail loops as well, yet until now — mostly by happenstance, because I don’t normally click on incoming links — I had not heard of this atrocity. That these crimes can’t be prosecuted is unconscionable and is hard to believe. That the Department of Justice does not show up when subpoenaed and that there is nothing that can be done about that is horrifying. How many women have been raped or gang raped or sexually assaulted abroad while working for one of the top 10 war profiteers (as of 2004) as follows:
- Bearing Point
- BKSH & Associates
- CACI and Titan
- Custer Battles
- Lockheed Martin
- Loral Satellite
How many men have raped their female coworkers while working overseas, laughed about it, and walked away?
Is that one of the perks, for some men, of working overseas during wartime, the freedom to rape any coworker you like with impunity, knowing you will never have to pay for what you’ve done?