They say she committed suicide, but her body shows otherwise.
If the US Department of Defense’s (DOD) account is to be believed, 19-year-old Private LaVena Johnson put an M-16 rifle into her mouth and shot herself to death.
While it might be impossible to determine the chain of events that led to the teenaged soldier’s death, it is improbable that she gave herself a black eye, broke her own nose, loosened her teeth and burnt her genitals.
LaVena’s family believes that her death was no suicide, she was raped and murdered. Is the US military seemingly covering up the slaying of one of its own soldiers? Also, with statistics showing that a mere fraction of rape cases in the military go to trial, why is there such little action?
When LaVena’s mutilated body arrived from Iraq and returned to the family as a suicide case, her father, Dr John Johnson, was distraught. "Somebody murdered my daughter and you picked the wrong person to f*ck with," he said to himself and the army coroner.
Her genital area showed evidence of acid burns, perhaps to destroy DNA evidence of rape. LaVena’s mother had little doubt that her daughter’s case was being covered up by the US military.
The claims would not be unfounded as there is a greater chance of a woman being raped in the military than being killed by enemy fire.
The DOD admitted that cases of sexual assault rose six-percent last year to 3,374. However, anonymous surveys sent out to military personnel revealed an even more alarming statistic. The number of actual cases was hugely understated and according to the survey, as many as 26,000 rapes occurred last year and there is little evidence to suggest that this number will decrease.
Sadder still is that the people accused in these cases are rarely brought to justice. Of the over 3,300 incidents in 2013, only 302 went to trial and resulted in 238 convictions. The conviction rate is a mere one percent.
It seems that even the men aren’t safe from sexual assault. The Pentagon estimated last year that 13,900 of the 1.2 million men on active duty endured sexual assault. The men are also a lot more reluctant to come forward with their cases.
“As a culture, we’ve somewhat moved past the idea that a female wanted this trauma to occur, but we haven’t moved past that for male survivors,” said Brian Lewis, a rape survivor who served in the Navy. “In a lot of areas of the military, men are still viewed as having wanted it or of being homosexual. That’s not correct at all. It’s a crime of power and control.”
The reasons behind the US remaining so hesitant to bring these cases to the fore must be taken into consideration. At a time when the military needs recruits to fight the US-led war on terror, stories such as these will undoubtedly dissuade those willing to enlist, especially women.
In a country that prides itself on providing justice for all its citizens, it is unfortunate that LaVena Johnson’s murder was ruthlessly covered up and she may never get justice.