Advocate: Military transfer policy hurt local sex assault victim
PORTLAND, Ore. - A Vancouver woman who says her life was in danger after being raped twice at a Texas Air Force base says she's been further victimized by military policies about sexual assault.
Myah Bilton-Smith is trying to recover from a brain injury and might have permanent brain damage.
"Sometimes I have the fear of breaking my family apart just because of how much problems I have," she said during an interview with KATU News.
But she is determined to be a rape survivor instead of staying silent.
"I want to be that percentage that goes, 'Hey, anyone who's like me, you can get through it.'"
Myah's talking about being raped at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. Records show she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after the first attack. She never had a rape kit.
It took her mom, Tina Clemans, leaving her life in the Northwest before Myah's rape got reported.
"No parent should have to move to make sure that their child is alive or remains alive," she told KATU News.
Myah says she was raped a second time just three days after she was released from the hospital.
Her mom took photographs her daughter's bruises to document the attack.
The gown Myah wore during that rape kit exam came back positive. But there was no DNA link to any suspect.
Jennifer Norris, a victims' advocate with the Military Rape Crisis Center, said she believes the military is hiding the DNA.
"Because every single one of us has our DNA tested upon joining the military," she told KATU News in an interview. "They have everybody's DNA on file already."
Jennifer Norris is a military rape victim herself and teamed up with Myah's mom to get Myah out of the Air Force.
Myah requested an expedited transfer to another base after each rape. Both requests were denied.
"As it stands now they have to go through their chain of command, which means, in civilian terms, they have to report the rape or sexual assault to their boss," Jennifer said.
Jennifer and Tina reached out to several federal lawmakers for help.
Sen. Susan Collins sent a letter to a general who could have helped. Tina said two other generals also knew about Myah and didn't step in.
"I gave the system a chance to do what they're telling us it does, and it's a broken system," Tina said.
Tina and Jennifer are now on a mission to fix that. And Myah wants the world to know: "Whoever's out there like me, you know, you're not alone. And, I'm not alone either."
Myah is undergoing therapy and continuing to heal.
Earlier this week, members of the House passed legislation that would strip commanding officers of their role in making decisions about rape cases.
KATU News called and emailed the Air Force several times Friday for comment. A Pentagon official said it probably wouldn't be until Tuesday until someone could get back to a reporter because of the holiday weekend.