Victims' Rights Caucus

Speeches


Madam Speaker, on Wednesday, April 9, 2008, the Congressional Victim's Rights Caucus will holds its annual awards ceremony to recognize individuals for their significant contributions to the victim's rights field. The Congressional Victim's Rights Caucus will award Jamie Leigh Jones with the Suzanne McDaniel Public Awareness Award to recognize her efforts in raising national awareness of the plight of American contractors victimized abroad.

Jamie Leigh Jones was only 20 years old when she went to work for KBR in Baghdad. She was only at the ironically-named Camp Hope a few days before her coworkers allegedly drugged and gang-raped her. An Army doctor administered a rape kit, which was then turned over to KBR, not the appropriate law enforcement authorities as is standard in rape cases. It's not a surprise then that KBR lost the very evidence that could be used against it.

Jamie was then kept in a shipping container, under armed guard. She was told that this was to protect her. It was really a way to keep her from telling others what she endured. Jamie convinced a sympathetic guard to let her use his cell phone. Jamie called her dad and asked for help. Her dad then called my office. My staff and I contacted the Department of State. Within 48 hours, agents were dispatched from the embassy in Baghdad and sent to rescue Jamie.

It's been nearly 3 years since Jamie was assaulted. No one has been held accountable for what happened to Jamie. For 2 1/2 years, the Department of Justice was silent as to what it was doing, if anything, to prosecute the criminals. Its silence was broken once Jamie went public with her case.

In December 2007, Jamie went to the national media with her story. Since Jamie went to the press, my office has heard from several other former contractors alleging sexual assaults in Iraq. Jamie has heard from as many as 40 women through the nonprofit organization she created, the Jamie Leigh Foundation, to help other Americans victimized while working abroad as government contractors.

By telling her story, Jamie showed other victims that it is okay to come forward and talk about their assaults. She opened this country's eyes to the "boys will be boys" atmosphere among the contractors in Iraq. And perhaps most importantly, she showed other victims that they are not alone in their struggle to piece their lives back together.

And that's just the way it is.