follow-up: jamie leigh jones and at least 38 others

Remember Jamie Leigh Jones, the Texas woman who was gang-raped by her KBR co-workers in Baghdad? Through the foundation she set up, thirty-eight women have come forward to report similar stories of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Because of clauses in their employment contracts, Jones and these other women (and many more like them, who we'll never know about) are prevented from seeking justice in court or from speaking publicly about their experiences. Their only recourse is arbitration, which in this case is a euphemism for "making it go away".

In arbitration, there is no public record or transcript of the case, no judge, no jury, and no criminal charges filed. The arbitrator who hears the case is hired by the corporation.
More than two years since her attack, no criminal charges have been brought in the matter, and legal experts say that it is highly unlikely that Jones' alleged assailants will ever face a judge and jury.

Jones says that the arbitration clauses are letting her rapists and other criminals off the legal hook.

"The forced arbitration clause in Army contractor's contracts prove to protect the criminals of violent crimes, rather than enforce they be held accountable by a judge and jury," Jones says in her remarks. "My goal is to ensure all American civilians who become victims of violent crimes while abroad have the right to justice before a judge and jury."

. . .

Since the attacks, Jones has started a nonprofit foundation called the Jamie Leigh Foundation, which is dedicated to helping victims who were raped or sexually assaulted overseas while working for government contractors or other corporations.

"I want other women to know that it's not their fault," said Jones. "They can go against corporations that have treated them this way." Jones said that any proceeds from the civil suit will go to her foundation.

"There needs to be a voice out there that really pushed for change," she said. "I'd like to be that voice."

Brava, Ms. Jones! You are that voice!

I know from my own experience how powerful it can feel to speak publicly about rape - and how healing it can be, feeling that your actions might help ease someone else's pain or make another survivor feel less alone. I never endured the media spotlight that Jamie Leigh Jones is coping with. I hope she has a lot of support.

I'd like to emphasize a note I made earlier about this case. It's true that Jones's case is garnering more media attention because she is white, blonde and conventionally attractive. It's also true that Iraqi women are being raped by occupying forces, and we're not hearing their stories. But one doesn't cancel out the other. White, blonde women get raped, too, and their pain is just as real.

Please let's not fall into some kind of reverse racism where we can't find our humanity because the victim doesn't look oppressed enough.

My previous posts about Jamie Leigh Jones are here, here and here. This ABC News page links to other follow-up stories that I didn't blog about.

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