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Associated Press

Documentary Tells Ex-Army Sergeant's Story of Pain

Cheryl Wittenauer

Retired Army Sgt. Angela Peacock waits for her meeting at the St. Louis Veteran's Center, Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008 in St. Louis. "Angie's Story", the story of Peacock's struggle to recover from combat and sexual assault trauma in the military is the latest in an online documentary series, "In Their Boots," about the struggles of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

ST. LOUIS - Retired Army Sgt. Angela Peacock once was outgoing,
competitive and athletic. These days, she barely functions, trusts no
one and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder that prevents her
from working.

She has gained 100 pounds and chain smokes. She lives alone in northern St. Louis County on a military pension and disability.

story of Peacock's struggle to recover from the trauma of combat and an
alleged sexual assault by an officer premieres Wednesday in a new
online documentary. "Angie's Story" is the latest webcast in the series
"In Their Boots," about the struggles of Iraq and Afghanistan war
veterans and their families.

The series is a project of the Brave
New Foundation, a Culver City, Calif.-nonprofit group headed by
filmmaker and political activist Robert Greenwald. His films, including
"Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," "Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low
Price" and "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," are

But "In Their Boots" is apolitical. That was a
condition of the grant from the financial backer, the Iraq Afghanistan
Deployment Impact Fund, Greenwald said.

"This is not partisan
work," he said. "We were approached to take this on because the stories
of patriotic men and women returning home and adjusting to physical and
mental problems are stories that traditional media have not been

The series has explored such topics as traumatic brain
injury, the plight of young military widows and a soldier's suicide
from the parents' point of view.

In the 20-minute documentary
"Angie's Story," Peacock says she told her platoon leader while
deployed in South Korea in 2001 that she'd been raped by a
noncommissioned officer.

She recalled her platoon leader saying,
"If you tell, they're going to make you look like a whore. They're
going to say you were drinking, it's all your fault. You better just
keep your mouth shut."

Peacock said she later learned 57 military women had been sexually assaulted in South Korea that year.

held onto her secret, but when she was sent to Iraq the combined trauma
of the sexual assault and combat made her physically and mentally ill.
She lost 50 pounds and couldn't eat or sleep.

In the film, she remembers thinking in Baghdad, "I'm going to die in Iraq - from this."


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eventually got help at Fort Lewis, Wash., where she was ordered to see
a psychiatrist. She cried uncontrollably in his office.

Peacock recalled thinking, "I can't hold this in another minute, I'm done covering it up."

there were more bumps: the breakup of her brief marriage to a fellow
soldier who also suffered from PTSD, an addiction to painkillers and
subsequent efforts to rehabilitate, being booted out of her family's
home when she moved back to St. Louis, reliving nightmares of Iraq and
the rape.

One day, she called a veterans hospital and told the
person on the other line that she was about to kill herself. She was
checked in immediately and started the slow crawl out of hell. She said
she's not there yet.

"We want our lives back and we need help," Peacock said of female veterans. "We need more support for emotional difficulties."

continued: "I see two problems. The chain of command doesn't take us
seriously, and rape from fellow soldiers is a constant threat. It's way

Patricia Hayes, the Department of Veterans
Affairs' women's health care specialist, said Tuesday every veteran is
screened for military sexual trauma or severe sexual harassment, and
that 22 percent of women and 1 percent of men report having been
victimized during their military career.

She said sexual assault
therapy is available at every VA clinic. People serving in the military
have feared reporting sexual abuse, but the culture is shifting because
of Department of Defense prevention and response initiatives in the
last three years, Hayes said.

Before, she said, "it was stuff it and live with it."

Defense Department said in a statement it is committed to eliminating
sexual assault through a robust prevention and response policy,
removing barriers to reporting and ensuring that care is available to

Last year, the military took action against 600 suspected perpetrators. An additional 572 are awaiting action.

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