She was raped 20 years ago. After a recent tweet about it, Air Force investigators showed up at her door.
By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 12, 2020
WASHINGTON — A former airman and veterans advocate says two military investigators showed up at her Indiana home unannounced Monday after she recently tweeted about her rape, which happened more than two decades ago.
“Just cold-calling a rape survivor, it’s totally fallible,” Lisa Wilken said. “... It almost felt like an intimidation tactic.”
Wilken, 49, served in the Air Force between 1994 and 1996. She is the chairwoman of AMVETS National Women Veterans Committee and testified before a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee subpanel in 2013 about her attack, which led to two surgeries and a medical discharge.
Agents with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) told Wilken there was no record of her rape when they showed up Monday at her door, asking whether she wanted to file a report now. Her recent tweet about her attack, they said, caught the branch’s attention.
There should be plenty on file about her case. She has her own copies and showed them to investigators, who were surprised to see them.
“I wanted to give those records to show how stupid their visit was. ... It baffles me,” she said.
She said there was nothing to be done to revisit the case, since her attacker was out of the military. He received an other-than-honorable discharge after an Article 32 hearing and served no time in jail.
“I also don't believe that the United States Air Force will take accountability for their bad decision in 2020 to cold-call a rape survivor, essentially revictimization, about a violent crime that happened in 1994.”
She said she has a 90% service-connected disability rating from the VA, 50% of which is from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the attack, and there was an initial investigation with OSI after the attack when she was 22.
Wilken said she is disturbed that OSI has no records of the attack and didn’t track down her records from other sources, saying if the Air Force lost them, the Department of Veterans Affairs should have them. Wilken also raised concerns that if the Air Force has no records, there is no evidence of the rape and the chain of command would not have that stain on its record.
OSI did not respond to questions on why military officials were acting on Wilken’s tweet and why investigators went to her home as the first means of contact. Stars and Stripes contacted one of the investigators that Wilken said came to her home, but he said military rules forbid him to comment on a sensitive investigation.
Wilken said victims of sexual crimes can feel liberated talking about their attacks on social media. If survivors believe the military is looming over their social media, and could come to their homes with no warning, it could be intimidating.
“It came across as big brother-ish,” Wilken said. “… I’m not in uniform anymore, I can say whatever I want.” She added that she felt pressured to talk to investigators. “It should always be the survivor’s choice. They put me in the position I had to talk ... I just want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else."
She said that there are situations when the military should follow up with survivors, or inquire if veterans want to file reports for long-ago attacks. But Wilken said the first contact should be a phone call or letter.
"I don't believe they will use this as a teaching moment within their Office of Special Investigation to do their due diligence before contacting a victim, and to always notify the sexual assault response team prior to making that first contact," she said. "I do know speaking out about this may stop them from behaving ... in this manner again."
The Air Force investigators drove more than two hours from Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana. She said she was not told which specific tweet spurred the visit.
On July 9, she tweeted a news story about Spc. Vanessa Guillén’s slaying, and how the tragic event spurred women across the military to share their stories of rape, sexual assault and harassment.
“#IAmVanessaGuillen.They wonder why we don't tell! I told & expected justice. I was so young & dumb. The prosecutor said to me ...
"Lisa, I can prove he raped you, but the rape wasn't violent enough for him to get any real jailtime." Government Property,” Wilken tweeted.
She first spoke publicly about her rape in 2012 at a conference for female veterans in Indiana. In 2013, The Indianapolis Star reported a detailed account of the rape, the botched investigation and how her attacker essentially walked away. The same story appeared in USA Today. She testified on Capitol Hill in 2013. She also told her story in “Finding the Words: Stories and Poems of Women Veterans,” a 2016 book about 10 female veterans.