SBS Dateline on LaVena Johnson

by Philip Barron on May 20, 2009 · 31 comments

dark_secrets_post

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.

1 MacDaddy May 22, 2009 at 12:25 pm

My name is Mac Walton. Through a guy name Scotty from Black Talk Radio, Dr. Johnson mentioned that he was trying to reach me. He read the post , or the several posts, that I’ve written about PFC Johnson and the shame of the military in how they’ve deal with PFC Johnson’s case.

Please let Dr. Johnson know that I can be reached at culturaldynamics@msn.com.
I can also be reached at my blog: daddyBstrong.blogspot.com
Thanks.

2 Alberto Rosso May 24, 2009 at 6:03 am

Just saw the sad and tragic story on SBS. Just hope you can find justice for your daughter and peace for yourselves.

3 MAJOR REGINA WMS, R.N. (RETIRED) USAF September 4, 2009 at 3:10 pm

DEAR DR. AND MRS. JOHNSON:

I AM A RETIRED AIR FORCE NURSE, VIETNAM VETERANS. I HAVE FOUR GRANDAUGHTERS IN THE MILITARY THAT ARE OFFICERS, AND SEVERAL YOUNG FRIENDS(FEMALE) SERVING IN COMBAT. MY GRANDAUGHTERS TELL ME THAT THIS IS MAINLY AIMED AT ENLISTED WOMEN, WHEN IT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN TO ANY WOMAN! YOU HAVE MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY. I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET DIFFERENT LEGISLATORS IN MY PENNA. AREA TO HEAR ME ON THIS ONE, AND NO ONES TO TOUCH THIS. I PLAN ON MAKING A PEST OUT OF MYSELF, UNTIL SOMEONE HEARS ME. IF I CAN BE OF ANY HELP IN ANYWAY, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. GOD BLESS YOU BOTH.

IN PRAYER AND RESPECT,

REGINA WMS., R.N.

4 Sophie January 22, 2010 at 1:28 pm

RIP in Peace LaVena I pray that the Johnson family finds out the truth and the crimal(s) pray for their crime sincerely. LaVena doesnt deserve how she has been treated/ or to have her life taken from her and justice will be served!

5 John A francois March 14, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I am want to say that my services as a detective and former Police Officer. I have the experienced detectives and others that would help in any way we could. What happened to LaVena is evil revealed. I and other honorable veterans will not rest until your daughter’s assault and murder are exposed.

J.A. Francois

6 John A francois March 14, 2010 at 11:58 pm

I want to say that my services as a detective and former Police Officer. I have the experienced detectives and others that would help in any way we could. What happened to LaVena is evil revealed. I and other honorable veterans will not rest until your daughter’s assault and murder are exposed.

J.A. Francois

7 John A Francois March 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

It was a very long day. What I meant was I offer my services to the Johnson Family.

J.A. Francois

8 Annabelle April 4, 2010 at 4:16 am

so, let me get this straight…they find her naked, mutilated, sexually assaulted body in a military contractors tent and claim suicide. surely, it is obvious to anyone with 2 brain cells that the government is covering up for some one or some people connected with the contractor (KBR). isn’t this the same contractor guilty of male employees and such sexually assaulting their female employees? i was in government for a while (20 yr military vet & 10 year civil servant) and ime telling you this: contractor+middle eastern country+sexual assault/murder+noone in government touching this=COVERUP!!!!

yup, she dressed for a jog, bought some snacks, went into some strangers tent, stripped herself bare assed naked, poured acid on her genitals, busted up her face and body in several places, burned her hands, sexually assaulted herself and then shot herself in the head.

wow, sounds like your typical suicide to me.

listen up government geniuses, you can put lipstick on a pig, but that don’t make her prom queen! oh, you can try but, the audience figures it out pretty quick.

someone have the guts to find out the real deal. we are willing to put our lives on the line. the least y’all can do is have our backs. especially, when some over paid contractor may be enjoying some serial raping/murdering on the counrty’s dime!

rip pvt johnson. ime so sorry you and your family had to go through this. thank you for serving. you will always be my sister veteran.

peace out

sgt annabelle, retired

9 Annabelle April 4, 2010 at 5:07 am

a few corrections:

she wasnt found naked….

they didnt do a rape kit….

yet, she killed herself, then tried to burn her and the tent down….

i still say her case is being covered up.

10 danij May 28, 2010 at 8:51 pm

Someone saw something. What is the Co Cdr saying about this? What about her battle buddy?
‘A lie can never live .’ ‘what is done in the dark will always come to light.’ ‘Regardless of rank, if you see something wrong and don’t fix it, you have just set a new standard.’ ‘Justice delayed does not mean justice denied.’
does anyone have a email address for her father?

11 John July 14, 2010 at 2:05 pm

After reading this story, I am in shock. I have been reading all day about stories of military and cover ups and its making me so angry inside. Especially this story, that has all the evidence of an obvious rape and cover up and it makes me sick. This beautiful young girl just trying to do whats right and serve her country, giving the ultimate sacrifice and is repayed by this. KBR has a huge record of horrible things, and what makes the military think that out of all the crazy things like rape, murder, etc.. that goes on in america wouldnt follow to places like iraq and afghanistan. I will never understand why things happen like they do, and probably will not ever, until i do meet god. I really hope he helps me understand why all these things can happen to such great people in this world, and yet the horrible people stay on top and continue to reign. I suppose we can ask spc johnson herself when we get there though, and again my heart goes out to the johnson family. I will pray for yall every day!

12 Rasheeda August 1, 2010 at 10:22 am

I am devastated by the behavior of the US army and how they are covering up this rape, murder of SPC Johnson. It seems as if they became used to their actions and have gotten bolder over years of coverups. They know how to do it so well and without a conscience. Do they realize these are human beings here with families or do they think they just have families who are worthy of respect and decency.
This madness has to cease. I will keep Spc.Johnson’s family in my prayers and also pray for justice because these coverups have gone on too long and if something doesn’t happen now, it will continue . Something definitely has to be done. I am very angry at the people who did this to her and this story touched me in so many ways that I will continue to follow the progress and support the family and there fight for justice.

13 SHEENA B August 5, 2010 at 9:32 am

Hi Mr. and Mrs. Johnson

I was in basic training with Lavena, it has been so long yet I still remember everything about her. We shared the same birthday and it hurts me to know that she is gone… I didn’t want to believe it at 1st but I had too. I want to do my part plus ++++ in getting justice for Lavena. I got nauseous and cried hard when I watched the video. I guess I wasn’t expecting that and I’m so sorry. I believe in prayer, I believe in repentance but for some reason I feel like the coward(s) that did this to her doesn’t have a chance. So Lord please 4give me for I am just angry with what they did to my friend. I’m furious. I got out the Army before my time. I couldn’t stomach it anymore, I hate the Army and how they treat your family. Please reach out to me let me know what I can do because the petition doesn’t seem to be working. I will faithfully donate to Lavena’s scholarship fund….for I do serve a God that’s worthy to be praised all day everyday and I now he will bless your program. I guess the military picked the wrong family..for one they didn’t know that you are a God fearing family and no one.. not even the government can get away from him.. They also didn’t realize the kind of person Lavena was and that she would have so much support from friends family to strangers….IF YOU ARE WATCHING THIS VIDEO… I PRAY THAT GOD HAS MERCY ON YOUR SICK SOUL BUT YOUR TIME WILL COME TO PASS!

14 T.N.M. August 5, 2010 at 11:07 am

This is a REALLY sad case. I hope that justice will be served for the family and friends of this young lady. Hopefully when the silent truth comes to light it will prevent things like this from happening in the future. I send my sincere condolences.

15 gaporg-1 August 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Sad… My best friend in the whole world wright now has a daughter in the armed service’s she sent me this article, it had to be a concern to her and it’s a bigger concern for me because I have a daughter who wants to work in Iraq once she graduate’s from collage. Even though she will work as a civilian she will work under U.S.Military supervision. Sorry but my daughter will take her degree in engineering and design state side. Thank you Terri Henry…..

16 T .DAVIS August 19, 2010 at 7:28 am

FOR GOD IS ABLE TO DO EXCEEDINGLY AND BUNDANTLY ABOVE ANYTHINY,ANYTHING THAT WE CAN THINK OR ASK….I FIRST WOULD LIKE TO SEND MY CONDOLENCES OUT TO THIS FAMILY AND TO SAY THANK U FOR THE SERVICE OF YOUR DAUGHTER . I JUST SAW A NEWS CLIP A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO AND IT REALLY CAPTURED MY ATTENTION. I WILL NEVER KNOW THE PAIN OF RECIEVING THAT KIND OF NEWS…I CANT IMAGINE WHAT YOUR FAMILY HAS GONE THROUGH
I APPLAUD YOUR CONTINUOUS EFFORTS IN GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS AS YOU SHOULD AND JUST KNOW THAT ALTHOUGH YOU WANT ONLY JUSTICE, VENGENCE IS MINE SAYETH THE LORD ….SO BE ENCOURAGED AND GOD BLESS YOUR FAMILY..T.M.D

17 Christina H. November 15, 2010 at 12:22 am

I want you all to remember that God will deal with these evil people. I am so very sorry for the loss of such a beautiful young woman. I am currently fighting with the Army right now, trying to get my husband help for PTSD and I’ve seen first hand how they lie and then the civilian workers lie just as bad. I feel your pain in that aspect but I can’t imagine how you must feel about the loss your daughter. I promise I’ll start doing what I can to raise awareness of this issue.

18 Gloria D. Bowen November 19, 2010 at 9:33 pm

John & Linda & the whole family. I greet you in the name of Jesus. John I hope you remember that we worked together for along time. I have been so vexed every since I heard about LaVena. We know how the government works. My pray is that our Great Big GOD, will pull the cover off your daughters case and the many more that they have covered up. Just keep the faith and continue to trust in our Sovereign God.

19 Vernita Carey November 19, 2010 at 10:24 pm

To the Johnson Family:

I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. I’ve kept up with this case from day one through the newspaper. I pray that justice will be served. I believe also the US Army is covering up a terrible injustice. Trust In The Lord, he will see you through.

20 Jus Wagner November 24, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Dear Brother & Sister, In The Lord,
We Love you all, and we too are with you as you realize that GOD IS IN CONTROL, we
do not KNOW or yet SEE BUT GOD, does, and this TOO HE WILL A-VENGE.
WE know that VENGEANCE IS THE LORD’S. So continue to TRUST,BELIEVE,
NEVER DOUBT and ALMIGHTY GOD WILL WORK IT OUT.
Predurable
Jus Wagner

21 Esther Barnslater November 27, 2010 at 12:59 am

Hello,my name is Esther,Iam 47yrs old Army veteran.Iam in a fight for my life.The docs said brain tumor.I worked with basically all men,vehicle mech but all woman.When i read this story,i could not stop crying then i got mad.The men who were to protect her.took her life.Not a one thought,my mother,sister,daughter,a human being.God will torment them every second of the day.I almost gave up until i read this story.I will live for her and her parents to help bring those cowards to justice.I pray that i can teach women how to protect themselves.Those men in my unit protected me even walked me to bathroom.I instilled fear in them and dared them to cross the line.No one had the right to do what they did and think they can walk free.Iam still crying.What pleasure did they get? Oh,their real men now.You cant eat,sleep,go to bathroom without fear of who will knock at door.Who gave you the authority to take a life?Oh,you thought war included a innocent /helpless woman,your own.You will reap what you sow.Someone should have taught you the peak the boo game.Peak a boo,God sees you.

22 Admiral William G. Jensen, III January 17, 2011 at 9:57 am

I will say this, I served in the Navy for close to 28 years. In my early years, you never would hear of such. It did happen time to time, and that was usually the city slickers who thought they were cool criminals and could get away with anything. Today is a totally different Military. Trash is running it and trash is in it. Yes, you always have a few good men, but the majority scares me. I retired for that reason. Our Military is made up of criminals and crud now. Animals who would do this sort of thing. The politicians need to stop robbing and stealing from the people and get on the stick about cleaning out garbage such as this.

23 Anthony Smith January 20, 2011 at 10:52 pm

It is a shame that the Lavena Johnson issue was never resolved. She is one lady out of hundreds of thousands who have served in Iraq, there have been MANY unfortunate deaths.

I read in the Los Angeles Times that there was evidence of sexual assault. In addition to the loose teeth from a punch, there was semen found. But I think by the time investigators got involved, the body had already been treated with embalming fluid for burial.

Hopefully, the Army has reported a list of suspects of guys getting discharged, to local law enforcement. This incident may be the works of a beginning serial killer. Proper notifications and surveillance can save lives.

Anthony Smith
Los Angeles
anthony_smith3@hotmail.com

24 CommonSense January 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm

This is just the nature of a people that has been this way since time can remember. it is their history and unfortunately so many others will be affected by it because for hundreds of years they have tried to love them and instead have been meet with countless accounts of torture,murder,harrasment, and rape. My heart mourns for her like so many of my people who have meet the same fate by the same people. I just pray that soon we will realize who our true enemy is and understand that as long as we live here we will always be under the shadow of death.

25 Dan Bruner February 11, 2011 at 7:46 am

I found LaVena’s story while searching for another video on youtube. I watched the vid and wanted to find out more concerning who this wonderful young woman was. I’ve had her and her family on my mind for days now and I wish with all my heart I could’ve known her. It was hard to watch The Silent Truth, but it tells it like it is. After thinking about it, I decided to honor LaVena in a way that will last for generations to come. I don’t know if her parents will ever see this message, but if they do I hope they’ll contact me and find out what it is.

Dan Bruner

Columbus, GA.
brunerr@bellsouth.net

26 christina February 16, 2011 at 2:55 am

this is very very sad. May our Heavenly Father please be with the family and especially our sister angel Lavena Johnson. I am WILLING to do anything to help. this makes me hate the military and just wants to get out.

JUSTICE NEEDS TO BE SERVED..

27 Tiara February 21, 2011 at 3:12 am

Wow….i dont even know what to say…..im so shocked right now….
How in the hell did this happen!! i thought the military was suppose to be protecting us,helping ONE ANOTHER,PROTECTING ONE ANOTHER,SAVING ONE ANOTHER not KILLING EACH OTHER!! let alone a beautiful young lady who was just trying to serve her country,i swear i dont get it!!!! what is this world coming to…how can people**THE GOVERNMENT!!** let something like this slide,i mean look at what they did to her!!! and then sit there and say it was a suicide……how dare they….i may not know alot about the military,army in particular but i do know that this is a cover up….watching the video her mother crying and her dad,,,,it really breaks my heart to see things like this happen in the world let alone to wonderful people.Im one of those people who believe in helping people,and if lavena johnson parents are reading this..if their is anything that i can do to help please e-mail me……. **im sorry for your loss**
God Bless..

28 Anne February 21, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Commenters keep mentioning KBR but this was the Army, wasn’t it? It’s not just the contractors who are legally insulated, it’s the military in general. All branches plus the contractors going all the way up to the Pentagon.

29 Gabrielle April 19, 2011 at 9:12 am

I am the mother of a military female soldier. I am the wife of a military soldier. I am the daughter of a retired military soldier. I was a military soldier. I also worked for a contracting company sending contractors to Iraq. My daughter just finished her first tour overseas. I am happy that my husband was able to go over and check on her from time to time and her husband was deployed with her. She is the same age as LaVena was. Just 19 years old. I have never been more upset with reading something of this nature. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson my heart is so overwhelmed by your pain and the way LaVena was MURDERED..Thank you for keeping her story out there. Although I am just now reading about her story. As some one said earlier. God is good and he is in control. He is a just God.

30 Mona Lisa Sarin May 28, 2011 at 1:01 pm

I am so sorry for you loss. I have attempted rape and attempted murder on my head. When I tried to tell what happened they tried to kill me. I am just now fighting with the V.A. It is shear hell. I believe she was murdered. I am one of the lucky ones. She was not. STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT LOUD.

31 October Mist July 8, 2011 at 12:53 am

What a tragedy! First this young woman; a soldier at that was raped, murdered and burned and now the military is protecting her killer??????????? She is being murdered a second time by an organization that she most likely believed would protect her.

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