Jennifer-Ruth Green could have been any of us. She joined the military after the terror attacks on 9/11 in hopes of making a difference in this world. She did what most Americans didn’t do, she signed up and showed up. I was like her in that regard, I also signed up and showed up. I went to the Army, and Jennifer-Ruth to the Air Force. Although I didn’t get the honor of serving beside her while on active duty, I now have the esteemed pleasure of representing her as she navigates the world after military sexual trauma. As an attorney and executive director of Combat Sexual Assault, I represent service members and veterans who have been retaliated against for reporting a sexual assault.
And that’s what’s happening to Jennifer-Ruth. She was targeted because she’s running for Congress in Indiana’s First District.
Nothing seems to slow Jennifer-Ruth down. She’s always had grit and determination.
After being sexually assaulted by an Iraqi guard in 2009 while deployed, she immediately reported it. Jennifer-Ruth had faith in the system. She had faith in her colleagues. She knew that she didn’t do anything wrong and believed that she would be treated with dignity and respect.
But what she found after she reported the assault was quite a different story. She was immediately retaliated against, not believed and was told that she would "set the movement of women serving in Iraq back 1,000 years" if she continued with her report.
Say again? How could a crime perpetuated against Jennifer-Ruth be her fault in any way? As someone who works in this field every day, this is sadly far too common. Here’s how the story unfolded and how the military justified its position.
Her commander blamed Jennifer-Ruth for the assault stating in her Officer Performance Report (OPR) that Jennifer-Ruth "wandered away from the main party at a Forwarding Operating Base and climbed a guard tower. The Iraqi guard attempted to grope you and then exposed himself to you. It is by luck that you or someone else was not harmed… ."
It is hard to fathom how one could blame Jennifer-Ruth for the assault, or even have the audacity to accuse her of wandering away from the main party. Jennifer-Ruth was assaulted while on official duties, and while with her partner. Her team was tasked to inspect the construction of a tower. Jennifer-Ruth climbed a ladder up the guard tower with the Iraqi guard, who was also a part of this mission. Jennifer-Ruth’s partner remained at the base of the tower to provide security. Jennifer-Ruth was assaulted by the Iraqi guard when she reached the top of the tower. Jennifer-Ruth came down the tower and immediately reported the assault to her partner.
It is unconscionable that her command characterized it in the manner that they did, and that they put it in her OPR. The personal courage that Jennifer-Ruth had to muster while enduring this level of retaliation was unparalleled.
But what we see now is an unlawfully leaked personnel file that outs Jennifer-Ruth as a survivor of military sexual trauma. What kind of cruel joke is this?
After honorably serving this country and continuously giving back to the community, someone who does not have authorized access to Jennifer-Ruth’s personnel file leaks it to the press. And yet again, the sexual assault is being weaponized against her.
Jennifer-Ruth is the epitome of a leader. The military failed her when they gaslit and blamed her for her sexual assault. And now yet again, Jennifer-Ruth has to explain, now to the nation, the intimate details of an event that she has spent decades recovering from. For how much longer must we treat our service women as if their lives are forfeit? Why do they not matter? Why do they not get the choice of who gets to touch their bodies? And when an unspeakable act is perpetrated against them, why cannot they be given a measure of privacy?
At every juncture, Jennifer-Ruth has made the hard moral and ethical decision to do the right thing, even when others chose not to. Even though it has caused her years of pain and retaliation, she would do it all over again if she was able to help one more person. That is just the kind of person that she is.
We stand with Jennifer-Ruth and will take any action necessary to see that those who leaked this very sensitive information are held accountable for their actions.
Survivors of sexual violence deserve to be believed and protected. And Jennifer-Ruth is no different.