Navy Sailor Acquitted of all Charges in Rape Case against Peace Corps Volunteer

On November 5th, 2010, I was raped by a member of the United States Navy in Kampala, Uganda, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  You may have read about my incident recently in any number of news sources under the title “Navy Sailor Acquitted of all Charges in Rape Case against Peace Corps Volunteer.”   I am writing this today in an effort to provide some context to this case and to address a number of misleading statements that appeared in most of these articles.

First and foremost, my name is Sandi Giver and despite the defenses claims that I fabricated this story to avoid the shame and humiliation associated with a “one night stand” I am not the one whom shame belongs to on account of being raped.  What I am ashamed of is the treatment I received by the United States Navy, specifically the military judge in my case, and the biased reporting that was presented to the public following the trial.

On the stand I was literally re-victimized and humiliated by a defense counsel who built their case around assumptions and hypothetical arguments that this was not a case about rape, but rather a case about regret.  I was accused of not fighting back, not leaving the room when I had the chance, of not labeling my attack as rape, and not reporting to the authorities in a timely manner.  In other words, because of these things, I was obviously not a victim of rape but instead suffered from a guilty conscience and reacted out of fear that I may be discharged from the Peace Corps.

When I first decided to file charges against my attacker, I had no idea that my life would become a complicated and extremely difficult episode of NCIS.  I was given a brochure from the Navy stating that as a victim of crime I had the right to be treated with fairness and with respect for my dignity and privacy.  The truth of the matter is, I was treated as a criminal from day one in this process and I ended this ordeal feeling more victimized than I did the day after my assault.   Now don’t get me wrong, my Prosecutor and his team, which were also Navy personnel, were fabulous and I truly believe that they did their best to protect me and bring my rapist to justice.   Unfortunately, the Navy judicial system prevented him from presenting a fair and complete case at trial which I will explain in greater detail.

Throughout this process I was told repeatedly that if I did not sign waivers to personal files, health records, and private emails, that I would be considered an unwilling participant and that the case could be dismissed.  I was forced to meet with the defense counsel for several hours prior to this trial without an attorney/prosecutor present so that the defense could interview me and prepare their case.  Unfortunately, the prosecutor was never given the opportunity to interview the accused nor was the accused forced to take the stand or provide the prosecution with his personal emails immediately after the event.  As a result, this was never a case of he said/she said but rather what I said and what his lawyer said.

As if being raped and later re-victimized on the stand wasn’t enough, I had to walk out of that courtroom and read dozens of news articles that portrayed me as a liar.  Dozens of articles that portrayed me as the type of person who puts her reputation and career ahead of her morals and values.  Articles that portray me as so self-centered that I was willing to let a decorated service member face life in prison.  Interestingly enough, the articles never mention that the jury consisted of four men (three officers) and one woman (enlisted).  The article doesn’t mention that in the selection of jury members, only one woman could be found out of ten possible candidates.  On a military base as large as Norfolk, how is it possible that only one woman could be found?   I heard indirectly from members of the JAG that other women were available however most of them had participated in Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training which almost always results in them being disqualified from the jury selection process.

The articles effectively tell a story that would have the reader believing that I did absolutely nothing to stop my attacker or to flee the scene.  They stated how I never called the Peace Corps hotline for assistance.  They stated that I never attempted to fight off my attacker; that I never screamed for help or asked the accused’s roommate for assistance.  What the articles didn’t mention is how in my testimony I stated that I was unable to call the hotline because I didn’t have the number with me.  The article didn’t mention that there is no 911 in Uganda to call.  The article doesn’t mention that I told the assailant on multiple occasions to stop, that I tried to get up from the bed before he physically restrained me, or how I was strangled for nearly 30 minutes.   The article fails to mention that consent can be given or withdrawn through actions and or words according to the Navy’s definition of consent.  For whatever reason though, withdrawing consent in my case was defined as hitting, slapping or screaming.

Interestingly enough, the article also fails to mention that an expert witness was called in by the Prosecutor to address the defenses arguments but was so restricted by the judge in what he would allow her to say that she stated and I paraphrase “I have provided testimony in over 50 sexual assault court cases as an expert witness and never have I been handcuffed by a judge like I was during this trial”.   The articles don’t mention that when the prosecution attempted to ask her to explain why a victim might not report in a timely fashion, the judge asked her and the jury to leave the room.  The judge at that point reprimanded the prosecutor and reminded him that the witness was a “Powerful Witness” and in result he would only allow her to be questioned on surveys or studies that had been conducted.   Despite the court’s recognition of her as an expert witness in the areas of PTSD and Sexual Assaults, despite her over 30 years of clinical research and work with sexual assault victims, the judge refused to allow the prosecution to ask her about her clinical research or experience and refused to let the Prosecutor ask her about my actions during or after the rape.   The articles also fail to mention that after her testimony the judge turned to the jury and reminded them that they didn’t have to use her testimony during deliberations if they didn’t want to because her testimony was not considered evidence.

Had the expert been allowed to testify properly, the jury would have heard that nearly half of all victims of forcible rape report no physical injuries during the assault.   Had she been able to be properly examined by the Prosecutor he could have explored, in depth, how it is that a significant number of rape victims don’t label their assaults as rape despite meeting the legal definition of rape.  Had she been given the opportunity to speak to her years of clinical research and studies with sexual assault victims she could have explained how it is that many sexual assault victims do not fight back against their attackers out of fear of being physically harmed further.  The prosecutor was denied this right by the judge and as a result I was denied a fair and impartial hearing.

The articles go on to present other misleading facts from this case such as how a former acquaintance of mine disputed one of the charges against the accused.  What the article didn’t clarify is that immediately after stating this she also mentioned that she was extremely intoxicated and couldn’t remember many of the events of that evening.   The articles and the defense both state that I was concerned about being discharged from the Peace Corps as a result of a one night stand.  That I went to Peace Corps to seek emergency contraception and that had I become pregnant I could be sent home.  This could not be further from the truth.  I went to Peace Corps seeking Post Exposure Prophylaxis because I was terrified of the prospect of being infected with HIV in a country like Uganda that has extremely high HIV infection rates.  I was never afraid that I would be discharged from the Peace Corps.  Peace Corps supported me through this entire process and despite the defenses claim that they pushed me to file charges to clear their “damaged reputation” I alone made the decision to pursue this case.

I recognize that in the end my case is over.  I have no choice but to accept the jury’s findings and must live with the fact that my attacker will never be held accountable for what he did to me that night.  I am grateful to Lt. Riggio, my Prosecutor, and his team as well as the Peace Corps, and I truly believe that they did all that they were legally able to do, despite the restraints placed on them, to prevent my attacker from raping and sexually assaulting other women.  The question before you now is what are you, the reader of this, willing to do to prevent rape and sexual assaults in the lives around you?

I challenge our society to shift the notion of rape and sexual assault as an individual’s issue to a community crisis. I challenge our society to stop treating victims as criminals but rather as human beings that deserve to be treated with dignity. I challenge our military to examine their judicial system and truly uphold that victims are to be treated with fairness and respect. I challenge the media to use their influence to properly address rape culture.  I challenge us all to become more aware and educated about issues surrounding rape and sexual assaults.

25 thoughts on “Navy Sailor Acquitted of all Charges in Rape Case against Peace Corps Volunteer

  1. Dina Fleisig Jovanovic says:

    My heart goes out to you! What a travesty! You are in my prayers and lets hope that he doesn’t do this to anyone else.

    • Rape and sexual assaults are a repulsive reality that more women than we want to admit have lived through… Thankfully, there are still good men with diginity and we need more of them to stand up to what their fellow brothers are doing.

  2. M says:

    I am sorry this happened to you and deeply disgusted that those in the military find it more important to protect one of their own then to protect the dignity and emotional well being of those they are called to protect. Keep your head held high and know that there are those that believe you and wish you the best.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing this with the world. I sustained a violent sexual assault in Cairo, and have been unable to share it with the public. Save for a few friends, I have been unable to share it with anyone. It wasn’t the first time it happened, and the level of shame that comes with surviving multiple incidents can be almost unbearable. Women like you give the rest of us hope that we, too, can find our voice. There was no legal justice in your case, but your story has resonated with a whole community of survivors. Thank you, for sharing your strength with all of us.

  4. Eric Stratton III says:

    Well, why don’t you release the court transcripts? Lay out the testimony for all to see and judge for themselves, they are public record after the trial when someone is found not guilty. Lets see what the testimony says and how the judge and attorneys on both sides acted.

    • If you go through the process to obtain the transcripts, please let us see them! We would request the transcripts but with the military we were told that since he was found not guilty that the transcripts would be destroyed. If this isn’t true, I know of some very important people who would like to look this case over.

  5. Eric Stratton III says:

    You have to be kidding? They are not allowed to destroy anything from ANY court proceeding nor are they allowed to withhold ANY document that is relevant to the case. Even if you were not directly involved in the case as a defendant or plaintiff you could request a copy of the court transcript via FOIA. So, not sure who or what is telling you that information but it is incorrect and the military cannot even destroy simple records unless they have a copy somewhere in digital format never mind a court document or proceeding.

    • I will pass this information along and see what happens…

      *6.27.2012 Update* I received a certified letter from the Department of the Navy and hopefully within the next couple of months will receive the record of trial.

      • Anonymous says:

        You will forgive me if my words sound very harsh but I don’t believe your story and I for one am taking the other side of this coin. So far in reading the comments on your page and story you’ve provided an “un-edited” script of your version of what went down and you have done a good job of bashing the united states navy and its counterparts involved in this whole ordeal. Let me share bits and pieces for you. The reason why there are people that don’t believe your story whether its Navy or civilian is precisely the reason why there are so many innocent people locked up that we’re falsely accused of rape to begin with and now only to find out that they are being released after years of incarceration and hard labor. Now, they end up suing the State or Federal Government for lacking in evidence, falsifying evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, or just plain hearsay!!! You name it. There have been plenty of cases well-documented on that subject and now because of a Supreme Court Ruling in Arizona v. Youngblood, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold the people accountable that put them there in the first place. A lot of people fail to see what happens when innocent people go away for a long time, they loose loved ones, friends betray them, wives leave them, they leave a whole chunk of their lives behind them and then that’s when rape victims start to loose credibility and nobody seems to care but only for the rape victims that lied in the first place. Although I don’t have your court documents in hand, you are basically accusing a General Court Martial of destroying legal documents that will follow this man to his dying grave. What a bunch of baloney, last I checked that’s a federal crime to destroy such documents especially court transcripts whether it’s in Dekalb County, the Federal Courts, or in A General Court-Martial. The transcripts are there and I’m pretty sure they will give us an “un-edited” version of what really happened. And then you wanna complain about the Defense Attorney interviewing you for hours on end and you having no attorney present during questioning about the events that transpired? Why would you need an attorney present?? Last I checked, the Navy Sailor at the time was on trial for his life and the Defense has the right to protect his client and cross-examine you if he wants to and the Government has the right to get into your personal records just to ensure that they don’t put an innocent sailor away. That’s how it works in every court, what did you expect to happen? You think the judge was going to prevent you from testifying? You must be crazy, it would have worked the same way in any other court, and as for counting the juror out, what did you expect on that? You think jurors are perfect? You think they are not biased in their own opinions? There was good reason to exclude certain people as well as certain evidence introduced. That’s how are system of Government works, you don’t like it, then move back to Africa and don’t come back. Furthermore, I should say that I have examined a number of news articles related to your story and so far, I think your doing all this to get money, plain and simple. But don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll put out an advanced noticed that all Navy personnel need to stay away from Peace Corps employees when pulling into ports just for your sake. You should know that almost 90% of General Court Martials end up in a plea bargain or a guilty verdict. If anything, a general court-martial has less favorable rules for the defendant and more favorable for the victim. The fact that this man had a not guilty verdict and took it to trial tells us something about your story. I’m assuming NCIS was involved in this investigation, a very elite law enforcement organization that has vast experience and a proven track record in investigating sex crimes and putting people away for it. The Court has done everything they can for you, you got your 15 minutes of fame, and now it’s time for you to start telling the truth. Face it, you made a story up and now your looking for sympathy and a ticket to hollywood. Yes, the military is not perfect, I for one can testify to that, they are behind in some areas, but ahead in others. No system is perfect, but it’s come a long way.

      • Dear Anonymous,

        I want to thank you for sharing your personal biased opinion, which you have every right, based off of the small quantity of information provided online. From what you have said, it seems that you may have had a loved one who you believe was wrongly incarcerated and I am very sorry for this. It also seems as though you may be redirecting your anger and bitterness towards what I have written above.

        At a young age, I became aware of the reality of injustice in the world. If you were to ask anyone who personally knows me or a former colleague, I am very serious about women’s issues and have a proven track record of supporting and helping individuals who have lived through atrocities of different proportions.

        I cannot fully know how this has impacted the perpetrator in my case but I do know that he was not the only one impacted. On February 29th while waiting as the jury deliberated, I prepared to give my Victim’s Impact speech. I hate how much this process has affected not only my life but those I love, my work, my future. I have been betrayed, I have lost “friends”. I feel like I lost a year and a half and I will never be able to regain the life I once had or the life I had once aspired towards. This has not been a positive experience for either party involved. I’m not the one who turned a legal activity into an illegal engagement so shame on him, not me. I am not sorry for how this has impacted his life. He should have thought twice about his family and friends before deciding to strangle me that night.

        I’m not clear where you are getting your information. I would like to share a few resources I found helpful and intriguing.

        Jag Defense
        As someone who is trained in PTSD and the psychosocial effects of traumatic experiences, I found these acquittals the lawyers are arrogant about to be extremely disturbing.

        Barriers to Credibility: Understanding and Countering Rape Myths
        — empirical data which will debunk myths such as Myth 17 which states “Most rape charges are false”. Right below that it states how rape is an extremely difficult crime to charge and the easiest of all to defend.

        The Invisible War Documentary
        “a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military.” Check out The Invisible War Website and see how you can take action. Check out Service Women Action Network, SWAN which “supports, defends, and empowers today’s servicewomen and women veterans of all eras, through groundbreaking advocacy initiatives and innovative, healing community programs.”

        RAINN Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network
        There is plenty of researched information on the types/effects/aftermath of rape and sexual assaults. By becoming aware and knowledgeable about the truths and realities, we can unite together in prevention and to support survivors.

        Knowing the legal definition of rape may also clear some misconceptions.

        Let me make it clear that I am not anti-military— I am pro-respect and dignity regardless of civilian or active duty status. My father was a member of the Air Force and my brother, a former Marine, are examples of men who exemplified respect to men and women on our soil and had the dignity to continue so while no one was watching while deployed overseas.

        I hope and pray that you exemplify love and respect to whomever you may marry, that if you have a son you will be an example of what it means to be a true man and that if you have a daughter that she will know how a man should treat her with love and acceptance. I hope and pray that if you ever do have a daughter, that she will never hear you speak in such disrespectful audacity as your statement here. I fear for your future daughter’s well-being if she is raped and sexually assaulted, as I and thousands of others have, and you speak such belittling words such as these to her. This is not the way to treat anyone, survivor of rape and sexual assault or not.

        After 3 years of being overseas serving my country by working with intense populations and then having gone through my own intense incident, I am glad to be home. I have a few priorities to fulfill before going back overseas. Since undergrad I have desired to pursue a Masters in Social Work. Now, I hope to further this by specializing in Social Action and Community Development, taking as many classes as possible about international issues and also the law. I hope to one day fully support other individuals who are victims of international crimes.

        At the end of all of this, rape and sexual assault is not a new issue. Since the early 1970’s, individuals and groups have engaged in consciousness-raising efforts to educate the public about the reality of rape. I have lived that reality and am simply trying to do my part in ending sexual violence and rape.

  6. E says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your strength offers me strength and comfort. Count me as one of your silent supporters.

  7. Gwen says:

    Dear Ms. Giver,
    First, thank you for your Peace Corps Service. Second, thank you for exposing the the lack of integrity the military has in punishing rapists within their ranks.
    My daughter is a civilian rape victim commited by a Navy sailor in Norfolk, VA. Her case never got to Court Martial—her perpetrator went to Captain’s Mast (not on any sexual assault charges, just a general “behavior not in line with good order and discipline in the armed forces”) where he received a reduction in rank and a fine of $80 out of his monthly salary for two months! But wait! They suspended his sentence and so he is on a 6-month probationary period and as long as he keeps his nose clean—no punishment. Even though she did not have to testify in court as you did, she still was re-victimized by the NCIS who treated her like she had made the whole thing up, went through hours and hours of working with a JAG prosecutor only to have no justice. Her efforts to get any documents related to the case have been totally blocked even with FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).
    I would like to know if there is anyway to make public the names of these perpetrators and the Judges or Commanders who do nothing to see justice is done.

    • Dear Gwen,
      I am very sorry for your experience with the military justice system. Each case is very unique with differing variables that are hard to understand. In May, I volunteered for the Truth and Justice Conference held by Service Women’s Action Network where over 100 military survivors of rape and sexual assault came together to voice issues and responses. In the afternoon, we went to Congress and to their Representatives and the men and women were able to share their stories of atrocities against them by fellow service members, lack of legal justice, and the issues that veterans face today. I told one Rep that I was volunteering since I didn’t serve in the military but was raped by a Navy Sailor while serving in Peace Corps Uganda and later found out that he had also raped a young women from the Reps state. At the end, a small group of us took a photo and instead of a handshake she gave me a sincere hug. I say all of this because the military justice system has failed thousands of survivors and the people involved with their Sexual Assault Response and Prevention programs know this and are trying to change this. I would suggest speaking or writing your representative. Your daughter has the right to talk to the prosecutor she worked with. Thank you for advocating on behalf of your daughter and if I can be of any help, please let me know.

  8. Coral says:

    Sandi, Thank you so much for writing this. I am sorry that things went the way they did for you. I am a civilian victim of sexual assault by a member of the military and very recently testified at an article 32 hearing. I know how you feel, as the defense was very brutal. What most civilians don’t understand is that the defense gets a chance to intimidate victims and witnesses and break most rules of procedure during the article 32 as the judge and panel (jury) is not present and rules of a general court marshall don’t apply. As you know the article 32 is like the grand jury hearing in the civilian world, except that at a grand jury hearing the defense is not present. This is something that needs to be changed in the military, so more victims can come foward without the fear of this hearing. I gained some strength from reading your post. Thank you!

  9. Christina says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this Sandi. You have always been a large part of the reason I continue to make myself a better person. I admire you and my heart goes out to you. Shame on the US military. I would like to read your book and offer my assistance to help you in any way I can.

  10. karen says:

    I am sorry to hear that, I have someone very close just told me that she was rape by a So Kor Army guy, and didn’t tell anyone due to fear,embarrassement and the mental stress she would have to endure. Now she suffers from ptsd. I offer her advice to speak up and tell, but she won’t. After reading your story I can see why. God will deal with this person on his actions, he might get away with our wacky country, but not by him…Sorry you had to go through this..

  11. Kade Patterson says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I do believe your story and know it to be true. I, also a victim of Military Sexual trauma with zero punishment for my rapists realize the emotional impact this can have on someone. You are brave and courageous. I have your back and always will. Thank you for your friendship.

    To the naysayers:
    The Military has its own legal system and can do what they wish with a rapists and a survivor. More often than not the rapist is set free and the victim is punished. May you stop doing exactly what the military has done and blame the victim. How dare you.

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