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Minnesota National Guard
Minn. Guard, Reserve officials prepare to help victims of sexual assault

Barely 18 and just out of high school in 1982, Sheila Johnson joined the Minnesota National Guard

She was sent to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for medic training There, Johnson says, she was repeatedly gang-raped by three fellow Soldiers

"[The assaults continued] up until the day I graduated from an Advanced Individual Training program," Johnson says "Right up until the day I graduated"

There's no official record of the assaults, Johnson says, because she feared her attackers would kill her if she reported them

Military officials say, however, that servicewomen rarely lie about being raped by their fellow Soldiers

"Because a victim risks so much by going public with it," Minnesota National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Ruth Anderson said "So, they're not going to just fabricate something"

"I actually have 16 cases [of military sexual assault involving midwestern victims] that I've been dealing with," Major Cindy Rasmussen, a sexual assault response coordinator for the Army Reserve, said

Right now, Army Reserve and National Guard officials are preparing to help victims of military sexual assault who will soon be returning to Minnesota from Iraq

"I know of other cases in which the victims have chosen not to report," Rasmussen said, "and we will try to work with them and get them to try to receive services and get some help"

Wallet cards, brochures and videotapes are all part of new educational programs designed to prevent and address military sexual assault

"We work with [the victims]," Rasmussen says "We contact them on a regular basis, we're there whenever they need us and we continue to get the help they need wherever it's needed"

As for Sheila Johnson, she says she recently got the help she's need, for quite some time, at the VA Medical Center in St Cloud

"When you're stressed," Johnson says, "when you're depressed, it'sdifficult to continue to fight"

That's especially true when the enemy wears the same colored uniform

"This program," Rasmussen says, "I really, truly believe is going to change the whole culture of the way victims are treated and the way sexual assault is viewed in the military"

By Mark Daly, KARE 11 News

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