SBS Dateline on LaVena Johnson

May 20, 2009 by Philip Barron · 3 Comments 

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This week, the Australian network SBS brings its focus to the death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson and the issue of sexual assault in the US military in a Dateline story by journalist Ginny Stein. The feature, “Dark Secrets,” is scheduled to air on May 29, but the video is available now to watch online.

From the Dateline website:

[Sexual assault] is a pervasive problem, with Veterans Affairs statistics showing nearly one in three female soldiers are sexually harassed while serving their country, and for some the consequences are devastating.

Private LaVena Lyn Johnson was just five weeks into her tour of Iraq when she was found dead in a contractor’s tent. The US Army concluded the 19-year-old committed suicide after firing her M16 rifle into her mouth.

However, her father, who worked in the military as a civilian specialist in psychology, refuses to believe his daughter committed suicide.

For the past three years, Dr John Johnson has studied almost every aspect of his daughter’s death. He now believes LaVena was raped and murdered by someone in her camp, and accuses the army of covering up a soldier on soldier slaying.

Dr Johnson says he will keep fighting for justice until the army changes “their attitude about how they treat women in the military”.

Stein is an award-winning journalist who previously spent four years in Southeast Asia reporting for the ABC. Her stories for SBS have taken her from Indonesia to Zimbabwe, from Rwanda to the United States.