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Raped lieutenant classified as awol { November 7 2004 }

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November 7, 2004
Classified as AWOL, Lieutenant Says She Was Raped at Army Base

A lieutenant in the New Jersey National Guard has been accused of going AWOL because she has refused for the last two months to return to an Army base in Mississippi where, she says, a fellow officer raped her.

The lieutenant, Jennifer Dyer, 26, says she was raped by a colleague on Aug. 8 while training for deployment to Iraq at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss., her fiancé, Edward Ottepka, said yesterday. Lieutenant Dyer would not discuss the case herself, Mr. Ottepka said, and is living in seclusion "close to people who are offering her care and support."

Mr. Ottepka, a police officer and former marine, said the Army granted Lieutenant Dyer a two-week convalescent leave after the attack, but then demanded that she return to Camp Shelby. Although she submitted several reports to the Army stating that "her mental health would suffer" if she returned - and even offered to complete her tour at another post in New Jersey - the Army classified her as AWOL when she failed to report for duty in Mississippi on Aug. 30, Mr. Ottepka said.

"She was presented with a choice of abandoning her sanity or taking a stand and taking care of herself," he said. "She's chosen to hopefully become a productive member of society, but it's made her an outlaw."

Maj. Rhonda Kiesman, a public affairs officer for Camp Shelby, confirmed that the Army had classified Lieutenant Dyer as AWOL but refused to discuss the details of the case, which was reported yesterday in The Star-Ledger of Newark. Staff Sgt. Robert Stephenson, a public affairs officer for the New Jersey National Guard, said the Guard had not had jurisdiction over Lieutenant Dyer since March when she was called up by the Army.

Mr. Ottepka directed a reporter to a statement posted by Lieutenant Dyer at the Web site for the Project for the Old American Century (, a grass-roots liberal organization. In it, the lieutenant, a police officer in civilian life and a member of the 250th Signal Battalion, who was attached last spring to the 278th Regimental Combat Team, describes her struggles with the military.

After the attack, Lieutenant Dyer wrote, Army investigators secluded her in a motel room on Camp Shelby where she was interrogated for at least five hours. "I was made to feel," she wrote, "as if I should have never reported the incident at all and that I was the offending party as opposed to the victim in this case."

A few days later, she wrote, Mr. Ottepka flew to Mississippi and helped her get a blood test. In her statement, Lieutenant Dyer said the test "confirmed the presence of herpes type 2."

Then, on convalescent leave, she returned to New Jersey, where she visited the Atlantic County Women's Center, a private psychiatrist and a private doctor - all of whom counseled her not to return to Mississippi, she wrote. Mr. Ottepka said she gave her commanding officers these reports, which "stated clearly that going back would be absolutely disastrous to her short- and long-term mental health."

But the officers ignored the reports, Lieutenant Dyer wrote, and ordered her to return to Camp Shelby or face prosecution. One officer, Lieutenant Dyer wrote, told her "that two weeks was a generous amount of time for leave and that it is enough time for a victim of such a crime to be recovered and returned to duty."

Mr. Ottepka said that he was disgusted by the way the military had treated his fiancée - whom, he added, is looking for "compassion and respect," not to embarrass the Army.

For the meantime, Mr. Ottepka said, Lieutenant Dyer is living near her loved ones, hoping to resolve her troubles with the military and return to working as a police officer.

"She's a strong girl, and I give her lots of credit for dealing with an extremely difficult position," he said. "Ultimately, she chose her own well-being over the Army's mandate."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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