Raped Portland soldier speaks out, speaks up

Liz Luras of Portland was sexually assaulted while in the US Army, then forced out. Now, she's fighting back on the issue of military sexual trauma (May 2013, KOIN 6 News)
Liz Luras of Portland was sexually assaulted while in the US Army, then forced out. Now, she's fighting back on the issue of military sexual trauma (May 2013, KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In 2000, Liz Luras joined the US Army to fight for her country. But she was raped while in the service — with a police report to prove it — then was fast-tracked out of the Army with an honorable discharge.

The rape — and two subsequent rapes — traumatized her, and she said the discharge saddled her with a bogus label.

“From 2000 to 2007, there’s, I think, there’s 31,000 of us that have been given personality disorders as discharges to cover up for something else so the military doesn’t have to take responsibility for the soldiers,” she told KOIN 6 News. “I think it was just a way to cover up for the rapes that I experienced in the military.”

The Department of Defense shared staggering numbers in the latest report released earlier this month: In 2012, they estimate there were 26,000 cases of military sexual assault, up from 19,000 in 2011. But of the 2012 sexual assaults, only around 3,400 were reported

“Sexual assault is a despicable crime and one of the most serious challenges facing this department,” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently said in a news conference on the DOD figures.

President Obama said from the White House the same day, “Whoever carries it out is betraying the uniform that they’re wearing.”

She recently entered the Ms. Veteran America competition and hopes to raise awareness of the problem.

“Before all this, I was up to go to West Point prep. I was absolutely a good soldier, never been in trouble with the military,” Luras said. “I can huck a rucksack, shoot an M-16 like all the rest of the guys, but I can still get my nails done and it doesn’t invalidate what I went through.”

She is no longer silenced by intimidation or fear.

“My first rape was very public. I wasn’t actually the one that reported it, and I went to the hospital because of it.”

She was determined to tough it out and get to West Point, so she kept quiet about the next two rapes. But she still suffered.

“I was on KP duty all the time, mopping floors pulling weeds and anything they could possibly think of to bring charges against me … for reporting rape,” she said.

Last month she joined other survivors of military sexual trauma at the second annual Truth and Justice Summit in Washington, D.C., to breathe life and reality into otherwise faceless and nameless statistics that politicians spout.

She went “to look them in the eyes and say that was me, not just somebody that you might read about. I went through that, I was raped for my country. I was discredited for my country. I fought for freedom. I’m still fighting for freedom.”

Luras is also fighting for a bill in the nation’s capital, HR 975, that calls for reviews of the discharges of thousands of soldiers like her.

“I fight like a girl who’s tired of being ignored, humored, beaten and raped.”

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