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Conscious Flow Radio


Friday, March 7, 2008

Raped and Silenced In the Barracks




When military sexual assault survivors call Susan Avila-Smith, she advises them to keep their mouths shut while she works on getting them home.
“It breaks my heart to do that,” she says, “but I want to get them out alive and that’s my main goal.”

Since she left the Army in 1995, Avila-Smith estimates that she has helped about 1,200 rape survivors separate from the U.S. Armed Forces and claim their Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. As founder of Women Organizing Women, an online support group for survivors of military sexual trauma (MST), Avila-Smith has heard it all. But lately, she’s been more sensitive than usual.
“Maria” is 20-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who disappeared from Camp Lejeune, outside of Jacksonville, N.C., on Dec. 14, 2007, one month before she was expected to give birth. As the local police enlisted the press to help reach out to Lauterbach and solicit information from the local community, it was soon reported that she had recently accused a superior at Camp Lejeune of rape.