To say that the Marines screwed up is an understatement. A report by the Defense Departments Inspector General found that military criminal investigators, sexual assault advocacy workers and unit commanders at Camp Lejeune responded inadequately and incompletely after Marine Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach , originally of Vandalia, Ohio, reported that she had been raped by then-Corporal Cesar Laurean. Corporal Laurean claimed that the two had engaged in consensual sex despite the fact that he had supervisory duties over Lauterbach.
Lauterbach and Laurean, who was from Las Vegas, were personnel clersk in a combat logistics regiment when the incident occurred. Lauterbach was forced to recant her claim that Laurean had impregnated her, and DNA tests showed that he was not the father of her unborn child.
A few months later, Lauterbach was dead. Laurean took a crowbar, hit her on the head killing her, slit her throat to make it look like a suicide, set fire to her remains, and then buried those charred remains in the backyard of his off-base home. Lauterbach was eight months pregnant at the time.
Lauterbach is just one case where the Marines and the military at large have shown a distinct disregard for the health and safety of the victims of sexual assault. The military is notorious for not following its own rules with regards to following the rules when investigating rape claims, and support services for service personnel who have been sexually assaulted often fail to adequately assist them
Lauterbach family attorney Merle Wilberding wrote that “The pain that Maria’s mother must endure as a result of those failings will never go away. We do not believe that Maria’s plight was an isolated occurrence and we hope that this report will be just one step in the continuing effort to protect victims of sexual assault in the military.”
Among the problems found are that the details of Lauterbach’s rape complaint were not entered into a database maintained by the Sexual Assault and Prevention response program on the base until six months after they were reported. NCIS agents never interviewed some of the witnesses after Lauterbach made her first allegations, and some of the others were not interviewed until months afterwards.
Meanwhile, the Marine Corps continued to try and say that they were not responsible for any of the problems that occurred, including stating that Lauterbach’s command leaders responded appropriately by ordering the two to stay away from each other. In a statement from the Marine Corps (which can be read in full after this article), the administrative errors “were immaterial when weighed against the totality of substantive care that the command officials provided” Lauterbach.
The statement also went on to say that “Command leaders remained engaged and continuously monitored Lance Cpl. Lauterbach’s well-being, throughout the sexual assault reporting and investigative process. Under the totality of the facts and circumstances known at the time, the command personnel acted promptly and adequately with Lance Cpl. Lauterbach’s safety and well-being in mind.”
Officials with the Marines have also stated that they had boosted training and advocacy services in order to build awareness that sexual assault is a crime. They have also hired full-time managers and master trainers in sexual assault prevention in all of the 17 primary installations.
The Corps also said it is kicking off video-based training urging troops to prevent cases of sexual assault by recognizing behaviors that may lead fellow unit members into trouble either as an aggressor or as a victim.
A Pentagon report earlier this year said there were 310 sexual assaults involving Marines in the year ending September 2010, down from 334 in 2009. There were 244 reported sexual assaults in 2008.
Laurean fled to Mexico in 2008 when investigators began to get close. He was extradited to the United States on the agreement that he not face the death penalty. He is facing life without parole in a high-security men’s prison in North Carolina.
The Marines seem more concerned with covering their own backsides than they do with actually finding out what was wrong with this case and fixing it. While it has been true that there has been a reduction in the number of sexual assaults within the military as a whole, the reality is that the military has not been seen moving exceptionally fast to repair the problems that they have had with sexual assault among the ranks.
Here is the Marine’s statement regarding the report. Unfortunately, it reads not unlike many of the statements by the Vatican with regards to their sexual assault problem:
The Department of Defense Inspector General’s Office released today its review of matters related to the sexual assault and death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach. Sexual assault is absolutely inconsistent with our Corps’ values, and we have, and still, take all allegations of sexual assault very seriously.
In this particular instance, command leaders responded appropriately overall to Lance Cpl. Lauterbach’s allegations of sexual assault. The command made administrative data entry errors, but the substantive care that the command officials provided to Lance Cpl. Lauterbach was consistent with the facts and circumstances known at the time. Command leaders and representatives continuously engaged and monitored Lance Cpl. Lauterbach’s well-being throughout the sexual assault reporting and investigative process by immediately assigning a Uniformed Victim Advocate; issuing Military Protective Orders; ordering the accused to cease all contact with her; and explaining to her the sexual assault and victim advocate programs. Command leaders and representatives also personally accompanied her to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as well as the Family Counseling Center for counseling. Under the facts and circumstances known at the time, the command personnel acted promptly and adequately with Lance Cpl. Lauterbach’s safety and well-being in mind.
We are always looking for ways to improve our Sexual Assault and Prevention Response programs. In this matter, the DoD IG found data entry discrepancies and a lack of communication between SAPR support staff within our SAPR programs. We’ve corrected those discrepancies by hiring full-time civilian SAPR program managers, which oversee subordinate Command Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and certified UVAs as well as plan, design, evaluate and execute the full range of SAPR services. We continue to learn and work to improve our policies and procedures for responding to sexual assault allegations. As always, we will take corrective actions when deficiencies are found.