In 2005, Jamie Leigh Jones, a twenty-year-old employee of KBR -- at the time a subsidiary of Halliburton, and hey look, they're hiring -- was working in Iraq. Her co-workers drugged her, gang-raped her, abused her so badly her breasts were disfigured permanently, then locked her in a shipping container for twenty-four hours without food or water. She was told by her employer that if she left Iraq to get medical attention, she'd be fired.
According to an ABC News post:
Jones says, she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.
"I said, 'Dad, I've been raped. I don't know what to do. I'm in this container, and I'm not able to leave,'" she said. Her father called their congressman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas.
"We contacted the State Department first," Poe told ABCNews.com, "and told them of the urgency of rescuing an American citizen" -- from her American employer.
Poe says his office contacted the State Department, which quickly dispatched agents from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Jones' camp, where they rescued her from the container.
Jones told ABCNews.com that an examination by Army doctors showed she had been raped "both vaginally and anally," but that the rape kit disappeared after it was handed over to KBR security officers.
Wow, what a shocking misfortune.
Her assailants were never brought to trial, either, neither criminally nor civilly. Why? Because Ms. Jones's employment contract with KBR states that a victim of sexual assault surrenders the right to prosecute their rapists; all such matters must be taken before a private arbitrator, where there's no transcript kept and the proceedings are not public record.
And this is by no means an isolated incident. See the links below for more cases, more women who've been raped and brutalized and threatened while working abroad for defense contractors, coming forward.
So essentially, if you work for one of these companies overseas, your co-workers can gang rape you, leaving you permanently injured, the company you work for can threaten you with the loss of your job if you try to go home for medical help, their security people will "lose" key evidence of the crime against you, and your only recourse is private arbitration. Your assailants will never see prison time, and there'll be no official record of what happened.
Or rather, this was the case until last Tuesday. According to a story in MinnPost.com:
In one of the most public tests of his political skills since taking office in July, Sen. Al Franken pushed through an amendment Tuesday that would withhold defense contracts from companies like Halliburton if they restrict their employees from taking workplace sexual assault, battery and discrimination cases to court.
So essentially, if a company tries to create an atmosphere encouraging rape and assault among their employees by preventing victims from seeking prosecution, they're cut off from defense contracts. That's kind of minimal, but since the only thing these people understand is money, it might just work. Note also that the author of the amendment has only been on the job for three months -- way to go, Senator Franken!
But now we get to the part which is relevant to the title of this post. One would think that every person with two brain cells to rub together for mutual warmth would be in favor of this change, but unfortunately that's not the case. Thirty senators -- all Republican, coincidentally I'm sure -- voted against the amendment. Is your senator among them? If so, please write or call and tell them what you think of how they voted.
There's a complete list of how everyone voted on the U.S. Senate web site. This is official, a dot-gov web site; it's not some unofficial nose-count by a partisan press. Is your senator on the "Nay" list?
Also, props to the ten Republican senators who voted for the amendment:
Bennett (R-UT), Collins (R-ME), Grassley (R-IA), Hatch (R-UT), Hutchison (R-TX), LeMieux (R-FL), Lugar (R-IN), Murkowski (R-AK), Snowe (R-ME), and Voinovich (R-OH).
It's pretty sad that voting in favor of punishing gang-rape is something worth particular praise, but still, I applaud these senators for voting for what's right, rather than going along with the Boys-Will-Be-Boys Club.
Thanks to a friend of mine on LJ for giving me a heads-up to this.
Firedog Lake -- Ms. Jones says eleven more women have contacted her about similar incidents
The Minnesota Independent
The Nation -- and another KBR rape case.
Think Progress -- this one has an embedded video of Sen. Franken's speech.
Think Progress -- this one talks about three other women who've come forward