Women team to stop alleged contractor abuse in Iraq
HOUSTON The story of 27-year-old Anna Mayo is graphic. "He was grabbing my hair and grabbing my hair, and my face and at one point he had my face and he was ripping it, he had gloves on and I was biting him so hard, I could taste, I could taste the gloves, I could taste the blood, I could taste the smell," she said. Mayo was working at KBR's Ballad Facility in Iraq last November when a man claiming to be a maintenance worker attacked as she lay sleeping in her bed. "I remember poking him in the eyeballs because he was on top of me, and I took my nail and digged it into his eye, and it's like he was mocking me," she said. He put a rope around her neck and she passed out. When she came to, she was being raped. "It was almost like a relief because it didn't hurt as bad as when he was ripping my face off," Mayo said. Her injuries left her in intensive care. "A girl that I worked with at the warehouse came in, looked at me, sat down and fainted -- that's how much of a monster I was," Mayo said. Mayo has filed a lawsuit against the government contractor and subsidiaries, saying, "It is not the first time that KBR has had problems with sexual violence in its workspaces, nor the first time that it has been put on notice of these rampant violent behaviors." But KBR says it in no way condones or tolerates illegal or unethical behavior saying "Sexual misconduct is not tolerated. Ms. Mayo's allegations to the contrary are not correct." Anna Mayo is just one of a group of women to come forward with claims of being sexual assaulted while working in Iraq or Afghanistan for KBR. Another Houston woman filed suit against the company just a few weeks ago. And this woman -- Jamie Leigh Jones -- made headlines when she decided to show her face and share her story after alleging she was gang raped and left in a shipping container with no food and water for hours in 2005. "I really believe that there is strength in numbers, and we're going against a giant and with our voice, we will be able to conquer what's headed towards us," Jones said. Jones has also challenged the company's arbitration policy. Houston Attorney Todd Kelly represents Jones, Mayo and four others. "Companies only have one sense of conscience, and it's their bottom line," Kelly said. "A jury is going to have to tell KBR and Halliburton that they don't appreciate how they are treating American citizens in Iraq; it is the only way to stop this." Kelly says he has received many calls from women making claims from sexual harassment to sexual assault. "They care about business as usual, move the perpetrator to somewhere where he can keep doing his work, and get the injured women out of the way," he said. KBR says while Mayo's lawsuit identifies her attacker as a KBR employee, the Army's criminal investigation division found he was not a KBR employee but employed by a subcontractor. The Army has assumed full control of the investigation. "He's walking around somewhere, and there's some woman who doesn't know," Mayo said. Mayo claims her attacker was located, but he resigned and was allowed to leave. "If somebody said it's like the wild, wild west and somebody will enter your room and beat you and rape you and let them go home eight days later, I would have not gone," Mayo said. And now she battles nightmares and lasting images of the night that changed her life. A court of appeals just dismissed some of Mayo's contractual claims, which a win for KBR. The rest of her allegations will be dependent on a ruling in another pending case against her former employer. Jones' case is scheduled to go to trial next May. KBR disputes much of her story. We also want to note KBR is a former subsidiary of Halliburton. Halliburton is mentioned in some of the cases, but broke ties with KBR in 2007.
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