Army Spec. Suzanne Swift made news in June when she went AWOL and refused a second deployment to Iraq. Swift’s refusal came about because she was the victim of sex crimes. According to Swift, the seargent who told her mother, “Don’t worry, M’am, we’ll take good care of your daughter,” went on to make her “his private” by coercing her to have sex with him. Swift says that several of his colleagues pressured her for sex, and refusing them led to increased sexual harrassment.
Swift reported the harrassment and abuse to both her team leader and her equal opportunity representative, but nothing was done other than to transfer one of the perpetrators. After she went AWOL, Swift was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis which the Army disputes. The Army did its own evaluation and concluded that Swift suffers from stress, but not from PTSD.
The Army has offered Swift a deal–that she will receive an honorable discharge if she agrees to serve another nineteen months. According to her mother, Swift was inclined to accept the deal until she learned of a caveat–she would have to sign a statement claiming no sexual harrassment ever took place. Swift has refused to sign this statement and is now prepared to accept a Court Martial. Her case has been placed under special Court Martial rules that will restrict her punishment to no more than twelve months.
Many Americans are familiar with the more dramatic cases involving sexual assault and sex abuse and harrassment in the military–such as the 1991 Navy Tailhook case (referred to by Jesse Ventura as “much ado about nothing”), the 1996 Army Aberdeen case, and the 2003 Air Force Academy case. But the problem is chronic: In 2005, the U.S. Armed Services received 2,374 reports of cases involving sexual assault alone.