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November/ December 2013 The War of Rape

What happened to Jamie Leigh Jones in Iraq?

By Stephanie Mencimer

When Arroyo met Jones outside her office, she added a new detail to her news about Bortz: she’d woken up with him in her bed. Arroyo expressed dismay and said, “Oh Jamie, what did you get yourself into now?” She told him that she’d had one drink and didn’t know what happened after that. She started to become hysterical and said, according to Arroyo, “Well, if I had just one drink and I didn’t even finish that drink, you know, what happened—what if, you know, the other guys had sex with me?” Arroyo testified that he didn’t observe Jones wincing in pain or demonstrating other evidence of injuries. But he decided to take her to the clinic and to alert the proper authorities at KBR. Whatever happened, Arroyo wanted it reported properly.

He eventually took Jones to the Army hospital at Camp Hope, where Army doctor Jodi Schultz examined her.

Schultz conducted a standard rape exam—which involves swabbing the mouth, genitals, and anal area for fluids, collecting hair and fiber from the victim’s body and clothing, and scraping underneath fingernails, among other things. She noted that Jones didn’t have any injuries that warranted a hospital admission. Schultz sealed the rape kit and gave it to a KBR security person, who soon gave it to investigators from the State Department. They, in turn, sent it to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia.

After she was discharged from the hospital, KBR security took Jones to a trailer: a housing unit used by other KBR staff, outfitted with a bed and shower. Unarmed security guards were placed outside the door for Jones’s own protection, according to KBR; the men who’d allegedly attacked her were still at large. From the trailer, Jones called her father, Tom Jones, in Houston, where it was still the middle of the night. He later called Jones’s office looking for her boss and by coincidence got Tumbarella on the phone. He told her his daughter had been gang-raped. Tumbarella was shocked. “I had just got an email from her saying, ‘I had a great night last night, let’s do it again.’ Next thing I know her father’s calling saying she’s been gang-raped,” she told me in an interview.

The State Department, summoned by KBR, took over the investigation from the company almost immediately, and brought Jones to the embassy, where they housed her in a trailer as well. Three days later, KBR and the State Department flew Jones back to Houston, and she soon found herself back on the air mattress in her mother’s living room. Two weeks after that, Jones asked KBR to return her to Iraq. The company declined.

In retrospect, Jamie Leigh Jones may not have been a good match for Operation Enduring Freedom. When she deployed, she was twenty years old, an only child who had never lived far from her parents for long. KBR contractors in Iraq tended to be military vets or foreigners willing to risk the danger for the high pay. She had spent time in high school on the drill team, not ROTC. After high school, and before joining KBR, she had worked administrative jobs and waited tables, and had even done a short stint at Hooters.

Jones had also had a difficult past. When she was sixteen, her parents, Tom and Cindy, went through a bitter divorce that involved allegations of affairs on both sides. Jones started seeing a psychologist, and in 2002 she reported herself to state child welfare authorities because of her fear of her mother’s new boyfriend. Eventually, the man beat Cindy so seriously that she ended up in the hospital and he ended up in jail for thirty days.

Jones changed schools a number of times as she bounced from parent to parent during high school. At the same time, she was in and out of emergency rooms for physical ailments. In the four years before Jones deployed to Iraq, she saw doctors for endometriosis, pelvic pain, earaches and hearing loss, stomach problems, insomnia, mood swings, memory loss, anemia, headaches, fainting, seizures, and allergies. She had a colonoscopy. She went to the ER suggesting she had appendicitis. Her medical records show that her gall bladder was removed, even after she underwent diagnostic exams that showed it was perfectly healthy. She had multiple tests for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and was treated for depression. She was prescribed Valium for a spastic colon, Ambien for sleeping, antiseizure medication, and drugs for anxiety, bipolar disorder, and depression.

In August 2002, she spent five days in the hospital after she went to the ER complaining of a fever, headaches, and other neurological ailments. She had diagnosed herself with West Nile virus, but doctors found no evidence of the infection. While she was in the hospital, her father often carried her to the toilet because she claimed her legs were weak. But one day, a nurse spotted her walking unassisted to the bathroom. When Jones saw the nurse watching her, she started to stumble and grab for the wall, according to the records. Doctors concluded that her symptoms were potentially psychosomatic.

A few months before Jones deployed to Iraq, she went to the ER and told doctors she’d passed out while driving and crashed her car into a wall. She complained of having blacked out on several other occasions and that she was having memory problems. A neurological work-up, however, didn’t find anything wrong. Jones also told her doctor that she’d been out drinking with a man she was dating, blacked out, and wasn’t sure whether they’d had sex.

Her complicated medical history would have certainly disqualified Jones from going to Iraq; because of the limited medical facilities available in Iraq, applicants for overseas posts had to be mentally and physically fit before KBR would take them. But KBR didn’t know about Jones’s health problems. In the medical questionnaire she filled out as part of the application process, Jones noted that she’d had her gall bladder removed and her breasts enhanced, but her only other notable medical disclosure was that she’d had the flu when she was five years old.

When Jones landed in that Camp Hope Army hospital in 2005, it was the fourth time in five years that she had told a medical professional that she’d been raped. The first instance came in 2000 when she was sixteen, on the day her parents’ divorce was supposed to become final. Cindy Jones took her daughter to the hospital and told doctors her daughter had been raped a few days earlier. Cindy notified her husband, who didn’t believe her. “It was what I thought was to be a stall tactic to stop the divorce,” he said in a deposition, noting that no criminal charges were ever brought.

Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter at Mother Jones and a contributing editor at the Washington Monthly.

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