LaVena Johnson's Death Labeled Suicide Represents The U.S. Military's Problem With Rape And Sexual Abuse

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Reports of soldiers being raped or otherwise sexually abused are far too common in the U.S. military. Although all branches of the military have made significant efforts to improve their policies of inclusion, the Department of Defense, the VA and other government agencies relating to military operations still have many significant issues in need of change.

One small solution to several of the Department of Defense’s many issues should be to stop concealing the facts and start attempting to deal straightforwardly with the issues of sexual assault that are so widespread throughout the military. 

When Pfc. LaVena Johnson died during service in Iraq in 2005, Army investigators claimed that she had committed suicide. The Department of Defense claimed that she had fired her M-16 into her mouth, ending her own life. While a plausible explanation for the events that occurred leading up to Johnson’s death is likely impossible to find, her autopsy report did show that she had “a black eye, broken nose, loose teeth and burned genitals,” according to Kulture Kritic. Her gunshot wound was also “inconsistent with the military’s story of how the young woman died.” Johnson’s family maintains that she was sexually assaulted and murdered, and the way her body was left suggests that that was a possible contributing factor. 

It’s always difficult to determine who is guilty and responsible when it comes to sexual assault cases. Regardless, Johnson’s death was a tragic one, and the fact that the Army attempted to conceal what truly happened to her demonstrates that they have issues with attempting to uncover the facts regarding cases such as these. 

According to the Huffington Post, “37 percent of female veterans report being raped at least twice,” and “85 percent of sexual assault crimes go unreported.”

Those horrifying statistics are simply two of a longer list entitled “50 Facts About Sexual Assault in the US Military,” an article that demonstrates the brutality experienced by so many young men and women serving their country at home or overseas. 

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