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Today's Top News
KBR’s 'Facts' About Rape Case Are No Such Thing
In 2005, while working for KBR in Iraq, Jamie Leigh Jones was drugged and brutally sexually assaulted by a co-worker, Charles Boartz. After she reported the rape and underwent a forensic rape examination, she was escorted to a shipping container outfitted as a room, where guards were posted outside her door and she was prohibited from making phone calls. More than a day into her forced isolation, she convinced a guard to loan her a telephone to call her father in Texas. Her father called their congressman, Ted Poe, who called the State Department who had to send embassy officials to her shipping container to procure her release.
After she was released, her rape kit, which the Army hospital had turned over to KBR and KBR had turned over to the State Department, disappeared. The Pentagon wouldn’t investigate.
The Justice Department isn’t talking to anyone, including Congress, about the case. When Jamie sought civil remedies, KBR told her that her rape, and KBR's part in it, were part of the conditions of her employment contract and thus any complaints would be subject to mandatory arbitration -- and they’d be picking the arbitrator. After 15 months in arbitration, she and her lawyers went to court -- in a move fought by KBR -- to force the court to determine that rape was not a condition of her employment contract and thus her suit wasn’t covered by the arbitration agreement. The federal courts agreed last year but it wasn’t until two weeks ago that KBR dropped its Supreme Court appeal of the issue, and then only on the basis that Senator Al Franken’s law barring U.S. contractors from forcing rape victims into arbitration might affect their ongoing contracts.
Now Jamie Leigh Jones' suit against her former employer, KBR, her rapist and her boss for negligence, sexual harassment, retaliation, breach of contract, fraud, assault and battery and intentional affliction of emotional distress can go forward. But KBR isn’t going to roll over and settle the case or admit to any wrong-doing. Instead, they’re backing Jones’ rapist, and using his defense as their own. On their site, they have a “Facts About Jamie Leigh Jones” litigation that is chock full of lies, half-truths, PR spin and rape- apologist sentiment that should make any woman think twice about working for KBR, and should make U.S. taxpayers wonder why their money continues to go to a company that sides with brutal rapists over their victims because it is more financially expedient.
EEOC Complaint “Facts”
The KBR site indicates that Jones filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sexual harassment complaint, and leaves readers with the impression that said complaint was dismissed. In fact, the letter upholding Jones’ complaint is part of her lawsuit, and reflects that the EEOC ruled in her favor.
In the complaint, Jones charged that KBR assigned her to an all-male barracks and that, within a week, several residents of that barracks drugged and sexually assaulted her. KBR’s response to her EEOC complain was:
1. There were 25 other women in the same barracks.
While this is true, it is important to note what is not said about the barracks: how many people there were in total. Barracks at Camp War Eagle, as it was known at the time, were relatively new, and all military barracks are similar in form: they look, like this barracks at a different camp, to be relatively large dorms. At Camp Cuervo in Baghdad, four such barracks would house two full battalions and a battalion typically consists of between 300 and 1,200 soldiers. So, with Jones being one of 25 women in the building, she was one of 25 women among several hundred men, in a building with small two-person rooms designed around large common areas for socializing and and shared bathrooms.
2. She said yes
Despite the extensive injuries documented as part of her rape kit, KBR’s lawyers’ response to the charge that Jones was raped was that her rapist contends that she consented. They don’t even address the fact that Jones has said she was gang-raped, referring instead to a single “alleged assailant” and they definitely don’t refer to any investigation, to the forensic rape examination or to any of the evidence that she was assaulted: they simply take one of her rapists’ word for it that the brutal assault was consensual, and use that as a legal defense against charges that their actions (or inaction) created a hostile environment.
3. It wasn’t their responsibility to investigate
KBR then alleges that, since the State Department supposedly took over the criminal investigation, they halted their investigation into Jones’ assault. They don’t allege that the State Department forced them to halt their investigation, just that they halted their investigation after being told that the State Department was investigating. But a State Department investigation, criminal or otherwise, and abortive or otherwise, did not need to halt KBR’s internal investigation into the charges that Jones made about conditions, the environment or whether Boartz acted appropriately given his position in the company.
The EEOC found in favor of Jones, and said that she had been subjected to sexual harassment.
KBR Communications Department “Facts”
Because of the media exposure received by the case, as well as government hearings into the case and legislation designed to prohibit government contractors from forcing rape victims into binding arbitration, KBR apparently felt it was time to fight back against the negative publicity that they likely deserve. But rather than describing the steps it goes through to prevent harassment in the workplace -- possibly because it doesn’t take very many and attempts to cover up cases of harassment and assault by forcing victims into arbitration -- or writing anything about how sorry they are that this happened to Jones, they decided to attack her personal integrity.
Before the Assault, according to KBR
KBR's first “fact” relates to the EEOC complaint, and Jones’ allegation, since amended in the legal complaint, that she was housed in an all-male barracks. The EEOC complaint is not the lawsuit, but that hardly stops KBR from using the sole positive EEOC result to try to impugn Jones’ reputation. KBR states that she “changed” her allegations in response to KBR’s evidence that the barracks itself was all-male. Jones legal complaint, filed in 2007 after the EEOC investigation was completed, reads as follows:
Jamie was housed, during her off-duty hours, in a two-story living quarters which consisted of a room on a co-ed floor in a predominantly male barracks… Jamie’s room was located at the end of a hall on the second floor. There was no bathroom on that floor - which forced Jones to walk past several men’s rooms in order to get to the women’s restroom on the first floor, enduring “catcalls” and partially dressed men. It is working of noting that the use of alcoholic beverages was permitted at this location at this time, and several of the men were often drinking.
On July 27, 2007 [sic], Jamie complained to several Halliburton and KBR managers, employees, servants, agent, officers and/or representatives about the sexually hostile living conditions and asked to be moved to a safer location. This report was made to Houston supervisory personnel, and she was advised to “go to the spa.”
KBR claims that Jamie sent emails to co-workers in Iraq asking how to get moved to private living quarters without mentioning that she felt sexually harassed as “evidence” that Jamie wasn’t harassed. Of course, KBR’s “facts” make no mention of her report to Houston that she was being harassed, and she was under no obligation to mention to people with whom she’d started working two days prior to her complaint to headquarters that she felt like she was being harassed in her living quarters. In fact, given that she’d been in the country less than a week, she was likely more than cognizant that the people who could help her get away from the men who harassed her were longer-term colleagues of and perhaps even friends with the men from whom she wanted to escape.
The Assault, According to KBR
Perhaps the most egregious part of KBR’s “facts” site is the part of the site designed to undermine Jones’ credibility about her rape case. Nauseatingly, it reads like a defense of her rapist and an effort by KBR to assert every rape apologist trope in the book, ranging from the implication that Jones is lying to "she was asking for it."
Before getting into what KBR disgustingly claims are the “facts” about Jones’ assault, her lawsuit chronicles both her memory of the events and the medical results of her rape examination.
Tragically, on the evening on July 28, 2007 [sic], during her off-duty hours, Jamie was drugged (by what was believed to be Rohypnol) and brutally raped by, on information and belief, several Halliburton/KBR firefighters, including defendant, Charles Boartz, while she was in her room in the barracks. When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants were ruptured, and her pectoral muscles torn - which would later require reconstructive surgery. Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again. When she returned to the living area, she found Charles Boartz lying in her bottom bed. She asked him what had happened, and he confessed to having unprotected sex with her. Jamie reported the rape to the [sic] Pete Arroyo, one of the operations personnel, who then took her to KBR medical personnel.
It is interesting to note that nowhere on KBR’s fact site does Boartz’s name appear: his identity is, to this day, shielded by his employer as they attempt to sully the name of his victim. The EEOC found her story of rape credible, in no small part because of the extent of her injuries from what was an obviously brutal assault. Jones came to know that she’d been gang-raped because the doctor who performed her examination told her so.
KBR, however, thinks it’s important to note “discrepancies” in Jones’s account of her sexual assault and the events that preceded it, presumably because they believe those so-called discrepancies will negate the fact of her sexual assault and prove them innocent.
Their first line of attack is that when Jones first reported the assault to them -- the morning after she woke up covered in blood and didn’t remember anything -- she said the men had come to her room and assaulted her. More recently, she said that she began the evening socializing with a few co-workers. This, of course, is a “fact” that KBR considers mitigates her testimony.
Also in Congressional testimony (and in several media interviews), Ms. Jones stated she only took two sips from a drink. However, several witnesses present at the social gathering outside the barracks observed her having several drinks and flirting with one particular firefighter whom she had socialized with the night before. She was also seen leaving the gathering with this firefighter.
Jones, whose lawsuit specifically states that she believes she was drugged, might legitimately not remember having more than a couple sips of an adulterated drink, and might well have been given more than one beverage. Given that people dosed with drugs like Rohypnol, the original “date rape drug,” often have difficulty standing, her behavior as the drug took affect could have been taken as “flirtatious” by people unaware that she’d been drugged, and she would have had to have “left” with the firefighter -- also known as Charles Boartz, not that KBR lists his name -- because of the drug.
But, KBR’s communications department makes no reference to the use of drugs in Jones’ assault, and explicitly encourages the reader to believe that Jones went to a party, had a few drinks and willingly left the gathering with Boartz -- which, even if it were true, would not mean that she willingly had sex with him. It is a rare (if not non-existent) consensual sexual encounter that leaves a woman permanently disfigured and in need of reconstructive surgery. The deliberate implication of KBR’s recasting of the events the night of the assault is to indicate that Jones did something wrong, and is somehow at fault.
That would, of course, be a terrible, rape apologist implication at best -- but KBR gets worse with its closing paragraph.
The firefighter admits that he and Ms. Jones had consensual sex. However, he is certain that nobody else was present or had sex with Ms. Jones that night.
Yes, one of the “facts” about the case is that the man Jones accuses of her brutal, disfiguring sexual assault, Charles Boartz ,“admits” that he had “consensual” sex with Jones. KBR calls Jones’ account of sexual assault an “allegation,” but Boartz’s contention that it was a consensual encounter is an “admission” as part of its “facts” about the case. They might not legally be able to outright say that Jones is lying about being sexually assaulted, but that’s the implication of their statements about the case.
After the Assault, According to KBR
KBR then contends that the “fact” that Jones didn’t act enough like a rape victim means something -- the implication being that it means she wasn’t “really” raped. They contend that, having woken up “with” Boartz, she didn’t run screaming. Jones states in the lawsuit that she woke up, still groggy from the drugs, covered in blood and went to the bathroom, only to pass out again. When she returned to her room, she found Boartz in one of the two bunks where he claimed to have had consensual sex with her, despite the injuries far more consistent with rape.
KBR then says, without naming the co-worker who is alledging things about her, that Jones didn’t appear to be injured to a co-worker that drove her to work, and said that she thought Boartz would end his relationship with his girlfriend for her. It was only later -- according to KBR -- that she admitted that she woke up, injured, and was taken for medical treatment.
Of course, many rape victims, especially those on whom rapists used drugs, don’t immediately report being assaulted. Many victims need time to process what happened to them before they can think about the legal processes. Once you take the victim-shaming spin out of the version of events presented by the increasingly-unreliable KBR, it appears that this is what might have happened to Jones, if KBR’s story is even remotely true.
KBR additionally alledges that it’s a “fact” that the doctor who performed the rape examination on Jones would not have told her with any certainty that she had been raped -- despite the tearing, bleeding and damage to her breast implants and pectoral muscles -- and would not have told her that there were multiple semen contributions. While it is true that a doctor performing a rape kit would not necessarily be able to tell that the semen was from multiple donors without further testing for DNA and blood type, he would have been able to tell her there were multiple contributions (since it was found in multiple orifices). The doctor might have assumed from the sheer brutality of the assault and his experience as a medical professional that only an attack involving multiple men could result in such horrific injuries. KBR’s “fact” doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped by multiple men, nor does it clear up any so-called discrepancy: but it is one more way to spin certain parts of the history of events in the case to imply that the victim, rather than the perpetrator, is being less than forthcoming
The rest of the document is intended to further the impression that Jones is the one not telling the truth. In the guise of disputing Jones’ assertions that she was held against her will in a trailer monitored by armed guards and asked to drop her sexual assault case, KBR says the “facts” are that she wasn’t held against her will, was allowed to make phone calls and her father was informed of her whereabouts at all times. They don’t explain why, if this was actually the case, that she called her father asking for help to get out of there, or how the State Department only sent its people to find her after documented intervention by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX), which was spurred by her father’s phone call. And while KBR asserts that it is a “fact” that Congressman Poe had nothing to do with Jones’ return to the United States, Congressman Poe’s office vigorously disputes that allegation. Congressman Poe’s office confirmed that they have a documented case file going back to Jones’ father’s first conversation with a case worker in July 2005. They insist, and have evidence to back it up, that they were the ones in contact with State Department and stayed that way (helping keep her father informed of her whereabouts) until Jones was returned to the States.
The Bottom Line
KBR’s unsubstantiated allegations, like Charles Boartz’s defense, are presented “fact” and Jones’ recounting of events are written off as, at best, just unsubstantiated “allegations” and, at worst, deliberate lies. They do this despite the fact that the sole legal ruling in the case -- the EEOC -- found her charges substantial and believable enough to rule in her favor, giving her version of events more legal standing to be called fact that KBR’s rumors, innuendos, falsehoods and rape apologist claptrap.
KBR obviously wants the average reader to draw one conclusion from these “facts:” that Jones wasn’t “really” raped. Studies of attitudes about rape often show that more than half people believe a victim is at least partially responsible for their own sexual assault if they drank too much, left with their attacker, acted flirtatiously or even just accepted a drink from the person who later assaulted them -- coincidentally, all supposed “facts” of the case that KBR is publicizing. Rather than arguing about whether KBR did or did not do anything about the hostile environment for women contractors, they apparently plan on litigating the very fact of Jones’ assault, both in court and in the court of public opinion, in order to prove their own innocence.
Nonetheless, none of the “facts” presented by KBR mitigate either their responsibility for the hostile environment or explain away Jones’ sexual assault. In fact, the one legal authority to rule so far in this case on that, the EEOC, found her charges credible and upheld them.
Of course, to counter the lawsuit, KBR would only have to prove that its actions or inaction didn’t lead to a hostile work environment or directly contribute to Jones’ sexual assault, and that nothing they did was intended to retaliate against Jones for insisting on reporting her assault. There’s no legal need for KBR to defend Boartz’s actions or defend his rape of Jones in order to win the part of the lawsuit that pertains to them. KBR communications director Heather Browne, whose name is affixed to the “fact” sheet, in fact confirmed that Boartz “separated” from the company in June 2006 (albeit more than a year after he was accused of brutally assaulting a co-worker). But rather than win on the merits of their actions -- if there are any -- they’ve chosen to try to fight the victim and deny the very fact of her obvious assault by impugning her personal integrity.
It isn’t that KBR doesn’t know that it is wrong to impugn the character of people as part of a legitimate legal debate. After an article on this case appeared on Jezebel last week, several readers wrote Heather Browne personal letters questioning her integrity, the veracity of the “fact” sheet and her motives for writing it. Those letters were answered by Randy Lawton, the Vice President of Security for KBR. He explained to at least two readers that personal attacks are “inappropriate.”
Further, it is inappropriate to personally attack the company’s communication director as part of your forum to voice your opinion. It is the role of any communications director to speak on behalf of the company, honestly conveying its position with out compromise of personal integrity. As such, that individual’s personal character should not be questioned or maligned, simply because he or she is doing their job.
In addition to admitting that KBR’s “facts” were nothing more than the “position” of the company, he noted that personal attacks on people who are doing their job -- even if that job appears to be making personal attacks on rape victims in order to save the company money -- are considered inappropriate by KBR. It is too bad KBR doesn’t also take the position that it is inappropriate to malign the integrity of a former employee who was just trying to do her job when she was brutally sexually assaulted.