Another Iraq Contractor Worker Claims Rape

Former KBR/Halliburton contractor Dawn Leamon testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 9, 2008, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on prosecuting crimes. AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke

An Illinois woman who says she was raped while working for a contractor in Iraq recounted the experience in a congressional hearing Wednesday.

A woman who made similar allegations before Congress last year listened and fought back tears.

Dawn Leamon of Lena, Ill. said at a Senate subcommittee hearing she was sodomized and forced to have oral sex by a soldier and a co-worker after she drank a cocktail that made her feel strange.

She worked as a paramedic for Service Employees International Inc., a foreign subsidiary of KBR Inc., at Camp Harper near Basra, Iraq. Leamon said the base was frequently under rocket attacks.

The alleged attack occurred just two months after Jamie Leigh Jones, formerly of Conroe, Texas, told a House committee she was raped by KBR/Halliburton co-workers and held a day in a shipping container after reporting the 2005 assault.

The Associated Press does not usually identify people who say they were sexually assaulted, but the women have made their identities public.

Jones wiped away tears as Leamon and a third woman, Mary Beth Keniston, spoke. Keniston, of Olmsted Falls, Ohio, said she was assaulted in 2004 while working as a truck driver with her husband for KBR in Iraq.

"It bothers me that it happened again after I stood up and brought awareness to it and brought KBR to such scrutiny," Jones said during a break.

Jones sued Halliburton, whose former subsidiary is KBR, and is waiting for a judge to rule if it can go to trial or be settled in arbitration. KBR and Halliburton split last year.

Leamon, whose sons served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said employers discouraged her from reporting the rape and pressured her to sign an inaccurate statement with inaccurate details.

Several days after the assault she had to provide medical care to one of her attackers. She officially reported the rape after she was transferred to another camp on Feb. 27 because she feared for her safety.

"It is very easy for a person in that part of Iraq to disappear," Leamon said. "I could disappear in a heartbeat. I could fall. I could have a head injury and it could be explained (away)."

Since Jones' December testimony, some lawmakers have pressured the Bush administration to investigate sexual assault cases like hers and hold contractors more accountable.

Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, the subcommittee's chairman, said at least three laws give the Justice Department authority to prosecute such cases.

"We have an unprecedented number of contractors posted in war zones and if they are victimized by their colleagues or by soldiers, the concern of this committee is they end up in legal limbo," Nelson said.

Sigal Mandelker, a Justice Department deputy assistant attorney, told Nelson the agency takes sexual assault crimes very seriously and has a team of investigators and prosecutors in Iraq to handle them and other crimes.

The agency has between four and six active investigations including one into Leamon's, Mandelker said. But she said she didn't know of any convictions for sexual assault of a contract employee.

"It can be extremely difficult to investigate these cases. As you heard today it is an unfortunate fact that the crimes occur in a war zone and there are numerous difficulties of investigating a case when the conduct occurred in a war zone," Mandelker said.

KBR spokeswoman Heather Browne declined comment Wednesday. In a statement Tuesday, she said reports of sexual assault and harassment are taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.

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