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Alleged rape victim now a victims advocate

Friday, October 09, 2009

A local woman who has been an advocate for victims of sex crimes just returned from Washington after a Senator amended a bill in her honor. Jamie Leigh Jones says she was gang raped by co-workers while working for a contractor in Iraq. She hopes to have her day in court and that others can follow.

Jamie Leigh Jones says it's still painful to recall how she was drugged and brutally gang raped by co-workers in Iraq.

"I feel that every tear that I have shed has been worth it, has been worth me retelling the story because I've actually created a change for individuals that become victims of crime," said Jones.

Four years later, she never imagined a Senator would amend a bill in her honor.

"That is a huge step for victim rights. I'm very thrilled and very thankful for Senator Franken," said Jones.

Freshman Senator Al Franken's amendment to a defense bill would guarantee employees of military contractors access to the court system if they are sexually assaulted and would freeze military contracts to any company that fails to cooperate.

The now wife, mother of a one-year-old, and elementary school teacher works as an advocate for other victims and says no one should have to fight for due process.

"I feel that it is necessary to help mothers, wives and daughters know what is going on before they get thrown into the same situation," said Jones.

Jones says she hadn't met Sen. Franken until she traveled to Washington this week. The former contract worker has sued KBR and its former parent company Halliburton over her claims of what happened in July of 2005. The company claims she signed paperwork upon employment that limits her to private arbitration.

"Really if you look at the definition of arbitration and you compare that with the definition of the old English star chamber, they are the same thing. We have simply come full circle to abusive rule by the powerful and we now call it arbitration," said Todd Kelly, Jones' attorney.

KBR has disputed many of the claims Jones has made and said in a statement, "The litigation involving Ms. Jones is ongoing. As such it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the case. KBR intends to vigorously defend the allegations raised in each case, which we believe are without merit."

Just last month a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Jones should get a trial. KBR has now returned fire on that decision.

Opponents of Sen. Franken's amendment argue that arbitration can be better and less expensive for employees. Franken's amendment passed 68-30. It is part of the 2010 defense appropriations bill and must still pass through the House of Representatives.

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