Fort Lewis, WA -- On Thursday, August 17th 2006, The Swift Action Network began "Camp Suzanne" outside Fort Lewis in Washington State, in honor of active duty soldier Spc. Suzanne Swift. The organizers' stated goals are to bring attention to the epidemic of sexual assault in the military, and to show support for Suzanne Swift. They have demanded an honorable discharge and medical care for life for Spc. Swift.
During her deployment in Iraq, Swift was sexually harassed repeatedly by two of her Sergeants there. She was the victim of "command rape," which is rape by a superior officer under the threat of punitive action. The harassment continued even after their return to Fort Lewis. The situation culminated when, within a month of her return, she asked her superior where she should report the next morning, to which her superior, the third perpetrator, responded "In my bed, naked." This act prompted her to report the abuse which lead to her being interrogated and treated like a traitor for telling. Three days before her re-deployment to Iraq, Suzanne experienced a breakdown due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which caused her to go AWOL from her unit, missing her unit's second deployment to Iraq in January of 2006. She was in her mother's home in Eugene, Oregon, where she was found and arrested by Eugene police on June 11, 2006. She was initially returned to her unit under the care of her original harasser. She has since been moved, and a "no contact" order was put in place against this Sergeant, who has since been reassigned to a different unit.
According to Swift's mother, Sara Rich, Suzanne is still subject to demoralizing and dehumanizing behavior, being verbally abused and harassed by her superiors and assigned to an office to sit at an empty desk during her hours of work. She continues to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder received in Iraq, from being in the line of fire all day and being terrorized by the superiors she depended on at night.
The Swift Action Network has stated that "Enough is enough." They have demanded an immediate honorable discharge for Suzanne Swift, full medical care for life for Spc. Swift, and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. On Thursday evening, the group set up a solidarity camp called Camp Suzanne, near Exit 119 on Interstate 5. The Swift Action Network pledges to remain outside Ft. Lewis until their demands are met.
In light of the tremendous abuse Suzanne and similar victims of sexual assault in the military have endured, the refusal of the military to grant her an appropriate honorable discharge, in a timely manner, is simply unconscionable. The ongoing sexual abuse of innocent civilians and enemy combatants in war is simply unconscionable. By coming to the aid of Suzanne Swift, concerned citizens come to the aid of victims everywhere.
The Swift Action Network is a group of concerned activists from Olympia, Washington. They take this action with the full public blessing of Swift's mother, Sara Rich, as well as with public support from Cindy Sheehan and former State Department official Ann Wright.
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