Rape and Intimidation
Military Abuse

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Rape and Intimidation - Military Abuse

By Peter Cheney
Globe and Mail
CFB Gagetown, N.B.

(When the victim isn't male, things can become really rough if she presses)

Ann Margaret Dickey is the latest woman to go public with a story of rape and intimidation.
Some in the Forces are trying hard to discredit her.

Saturday, June 20, 1998

IN the driveway there is a rusted barbecue and a car she no longer trusts herself to drive. Inside the house, further evidence of a life that has come off the rails -- laundry is scattered through the rooms, and on the table is a teetering stack of paper that documents Ann Margaret Dickey's lonely battle against forces she is only beginning to comprehend.

Her story is one that a Kennedy conspiracist might appreciate, filled with doctored files, anonymous late-night phone calls, and suspicions of high-level chicanery that stop just short of a second shooter on the grassy knoll.Even she knows it can sound far-fetched: "I would find this hard to believe if it hadn't happened to me." At 25, Ms. Dickey, once "just a regular kid from Nova Scotia," has become a controversial central character in the sexual-abuse scandal that has hit Canada's Armed Forces. The scandal has been widening by the day as women come forward to add their stories.

Given the nature of the allegations, proof can be elusive, but the sheer numbers involved suggest that behind the smoke, there is fire.

No case has been more complicated than Ms. Dickey's. Depending on whom you believe, she is either the victim of both a vicious crime and a smear campaign orchestrated by the military, or an unstable young woman whose delusional fantasies have dragged the Armed Forces through the mud.

Ms. Dickey says she was repeatedly raped, assaulted and drugged while attending boot camp at Saint-Jean, Que., in February of 1996. Since then, she says, she has fought to have her case investigated, only to find herself the subject of what she sees as a Kafkaesque conspiracy aimed at discrediting her.Without actually calling her a liar, Defence Minister Art Eggleton has cast serious doubt on Ms. Dickey's allegations: "She has brought different information at different times to the police authorities .. . . ," he said last week. Unofficially, the military's line on Ms. Dickey has been far harsher. In Gagetown, few want to talk about her.

Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Appleton, base chief of staff, said there is "an extremely high level of frustration" over Ms. Dickey and the scandals that have plagued the Forces. "Whether it's personally, or on behalf of the military, people are getting tired of hearing about this. What people should keep in mind is that these are unproven allegations, based on the word of a single person."

As you would expect of someone at the centre of a conspiracy, real or imagined, Ms. Dickey finds herself alone. Her existence is now largely confined to the small house she shares with her common-law husband in Gagetown's married quarters. "I'm a leper," she said. "No one wants to  be around me."

For days on end, she stays in her pajamas, afraid to go outside, afraid to be alone, afraid even to take a shower in case she succumbs to newly acquired demons that make her scrub herself until her skin bleeds.

When the phone rings, she wonders whether it will be yet another anonymous threat. Among the callers, she said, has been one that warned: "Your husband will be going away soon. Watch your back. You were hurting before. Now you're really going to suffer."

Much of her time is spent combing through the massive, dog-eared case files she has collected, looking for some clue that will prove that her claims are true. If she seems paranoid, perhaps she has good reason. Last week, someone at Gagetown faxed her confidential medical files to a newspaper office and a television station. The files included entries that undermine Ms. Dickey's credibility, including references to childhood sexual abuse and a history of "family disharmony and breakdown." Ms. Dickey said the files do not reflect her actual history.

"There was nothing wrong with my family. And the only time I was sexually abused was after I joined the army and went to Saint-Jean." Ms. Dickey said military doctors entered the damaging information without her knowledge, twisting elements of her personal history and giving them a sinister spin.

Once entered into her file, she said, those entries became a powerful weapon against her. She said those files were used by the army to get rid of her, claiming she was medically unfit for service. Last September, the files were cited by the Veterans Review and Appeal Board when it denied her application for a disability pension. "The Panel, having considered all the evidence before it, has concluded that the appellant's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosed during her posting at CFB St. Jean is part and parcel of a troubled past. . . ."

In Nova Scotia, people who knew Ms. Dickey before she went into the military said her past was anything but troubled. At Dartmouth High School, where she graduated a year early, guidance counsellor John Chisholm recalled her as a student who had never presented any problems. "She was just an average kid. There was no trouble with her. Nothing at all." Chris  Bradley, who has known Ms. Dickey since she was six years old, remembered  her as a well-adjusted young woman who played in the school band, liked to take care of children, and volunteered at the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital, where she worked in the children's oncology ward. "The Ann Margaret I know is nothing like the Ann Margaret they're talking about," Ms. Bradley said.

Ms. Dickey's case began on Feb. 14, 1996, the day she arrived at the Saint-Jean boot camp south of Montreal. She was there for nine nights. On eight of them, she said, she was sexually and physically assaulted by two men she knew only by their rank and last names. One was a master seaman, the other a master corporal. Before the week was out, she said, the two had raped her, held her at gunpoint and masturbated in front of her. Ms. Dickey said she told her superiors what was happening from the first day, but nothing was done. Asked why she did not just leave boot camp, Ms. Dickey said the control exerted over recruits was absolute. "This was a place where you had to ask permission to sit down." When she complained, Ms. Dickey was told to "keep your mouth shut." "You will not talk, you will not confer with your teammates. If you do, you will be reprimanded," she quoted an officer as telling her. She said she tried to go to the military police, but wasn't allowed. Instead, she was washed out of the course and sent home.

What followed was a nightmarish and ultimately fruitless campaign to get her case investigated. Military police said there was no proof. Civilian police told her they had no jurisdiction. For almost 2˝ years, Ms. Dickey's case was known only within military circles. During that time, she saw a succession of doctors, who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 1997, she was discharged from the Canadian Forces. Earlier this month, Ms. Dickey emerged from obscurity after she approached Art Hanger, defence critic for the Reform Party. Mr.Hanger flew Ms. Dickey to Ottawa for a press conference that made national headlines and sparked accusations of ill-advised politicking. "This is not a good case to use," a military source said.".... Someone should take Mr. Hanger aside and warn him about what he's dealing with."

Ms. Dickey's case is now in the hands of the National Investigative Service, a body created in the wake of the Somalia affair. NIS spokesman Captain Alain Bissonnette said the agency could not provide any details on the investigation. "It's being investigated. That's all I can tell you."

Ms. Dickey doesn't believe that. She said there has never been an effort to track down the two men who assaulted her. In a videotaped interview between Ms. Dickey and two NIS officers in January of this year, it was clear that the alleged attackers had not been pursued. On the tape, one of the officers is heard telling Ms. Dickey that she has no case without the first names of the alleged attackers.

"Unless you can come up with a name or if more information comes to light from you, I can only suspend the file," the officer tells Ms. Dickey. Ms. Dickey said no one at boot camp knew first names: "In there you're nobody. You're the lowest of the low." Sean McAdam, an assistant to the Reform Party's Mr. Hanger, said the tape and the fact that the suspects have never  been identified show "a gross lack of professionalism." "You have to ask yourself whether there was ever really an investigation at all," he said.

Although Ms. Dickey's insistence that the military altered her records might strike some as incredible, those familiar with the recent history of the Canadian military say there is more than enough evidence to support that kind of suspicion. In Somalia, for example, soldiers were ordered to destroy evidence relating to the killing of Somali civilians in 1993, including Shidane Abukar Arone, a 16-year-old boy who was tortured and beaten to death by soldiers from the now-disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment. Many of the recent sexual-assault cases have also been clouded by accusations of military cover-ups and campaigns to discredit the victims.

Dawn Thomson, the victim of a sexual assault that became part of a Maclean's magazine investigation, said people should pay attention to Ms. Dickey's claims. Ms. Thomson said she had been subjected to many of the tactics described by Ms. Dickey, including falsification of her files.

"I believe her," Ms. Thomson said. "This stuff really happens." Scott Taylor, publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, said there's nothing far-fetched about Ms. Dickey's claims. "Before Somalia, nobody would have believed this kind of stuff. Now they've seen it for themselves."

Defence officials refused to comment on Ms. Dickey's allegations about the doctoring of her files. "We can't respond to specifics," said Elaine McArdle, a spokeswoman for Mr. Eggleton. "This is an ongoing investigation." Ms. McArdle said the perception that Mr. Eggleton doubts Ms. Dickey's story is "unfortunate." "For a while, he was perceived as discrediting the alleged victim. That was never his intent. He has said that all allegations of sexual abuse are taken seriously. And they will be."

For Tom and Elise Dickey, Ms. Dickey's parents, watching her case unfold has been excruciating. To them, one thing is clear -- when their daughter went to the Saint-Jean boot camp in February of 1996, she was normal. When she unexpectedly returned nine days later, she had clearly been traumatized. "She was like a terrorized animal," Mrs. Dickey said. "I never saw anything like that. I was scared for her, and I was scared of her. That girl I raised -- I was actually scared of her." Mr. Dickey said his daughter has never been the same since that time. "I know something happened to her. I can tell. I look in her eyes, and the substance is gone. The light has gone out." Mr. Dickey was angered by suggestions that inconsistencies in his daughter's stories undermine her credibility.

"What do they expect? When she came back here, she was hardly making sense. Her brain is like a filing cabinet that's been mixed up, then dumped out."

The Dickeys are especially angry at the references to family problems placed in their daughter's records. "We don't have secrets in our family. I never heard of any of these things that they put in her file. I don't know what they're talking about." Mrs. Dickey wept as she looked at album photos that showed a younger, happier Ann Margaret: "If money could buy back the girl in those pictures, I'd sell everything tomorrow."

 

 

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