While the #MeToo movement sparked a national conversation about sexual assault and harassment in the media and entertainment, a survivor from North Texas is pushing for more focus on assaults in the military.
Annie Kendzior, a native of Southlake, Texas, says she was raped by two peers at the U.S. Naval Academy while she was a student in 2008. Kendzior reported the assaults three years later but says the attackers were never punished. Kendzior, who was suffering with PTSD since the assaults, says she was removed from the academy after an academic review board found her medically unfit to serve.
“The Academy found it easier to label me as having a personality disorder than to treat me for the trauma of being raped,” Kendzior told the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Military Personnel during a May 2017 hearing.
“It seems the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps of 'leave no man behind' does not apply to the men and women who are raped,” Kendzior told lawmakers. “Instead they are frequently and intentionally left behind to deal with the pain, anguish and long-term emotional stress while the rapist’s career continues without any consequence.”
Kendzior testified on sexual assault at military service academies alongside three other survivors who told Congress they were also assaulted at the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. All said they faced retaliation.
Kendzior says she would like to see rapes at military academies investigated and prosecuted by civilian police departments and prosecutors. She also says she supports efforts to reform the justice system in the military as spelled out in the proposed Military Justice Improvement Act, which would require an independent military prosecutor to determine if a case moves forward instead of someone in the chain of command.
“The victims are just not getting the help they’re needing and usually they’re just pushed out or kicked out, like what they did to me,” Kendzior said.
The 27-year-old left the U.S. Naval Academy and earned her undergraduate degree from Trinity University. Saturday, she graduated with her MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington. It marked a moment of triumph for Kendzior over the lows of her college career.
“It was awesome. I’m so proud of myself for getting through it and being at a point that I just didn’t think I’d be at given all the circumstances,” Kendzior said.
“I wanted to fly F-35s. I really wanted to be a fighter pilot that was a goal of mine going in and that’s what I was working towards when I was there. Unfortunately, that dream got cut short. But, I’m doing a lot more things with my life,” Kendzior added.
She has never named her rapists publicly. Kendzior provided a statement she gave to the academic review board in 2011 to NBC 5. She says she is still fighting to see what Navy investigators uncovered after she reported her attackers.
Kendzior currently works with the nonprofit Protect Our Defenders.
NBC 5 reached out to the U.S. Naval Academy’s Public Affairs office on Sunday for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
You can read a recent Department of Defense survey on sexual assault here.