May 1, 2008— -- Government contractors with workers in war zones may have to provide better treatment to employees who allege rape or sexual assault, thanks to a new Senate measure.
Weeks after hearing graphic testimony from women who said they were raped and assaulted while working in Iraq, the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday night approved language in a bill which would require military contractors, like KBR Inc., to report sex crimes committed by or against their employees, and provide employee victims with assistance and protection.
More than two dozen female contractor employees working in Iraq and Afghanistan have reported being raped or sexually assaulted, according to Defense Department statistics obtained by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who introduced the new language.
Several women, including Jamie Leigh Jones, whose story was featured on ABC News, have testified that their employers mistreated them after they reported being assaulted. Jones said that the company locked her in a trailer, cut off her access to the outside world and neglected to alert law enforcement of her alleged rape.
In an internal memo obtained by ABC News last December, KBR said it disputes portions of Jones' claims. It has denied doing anything improper.
Last month two women, also former employees of KBR, graphically recounted for the Senate panel how they were allegedly raped while working in Iraq and how KBR failed to properly respond.
One, Dawn Leamon, told lawmakers she was drugged and brutally gang-raped by soldiers and coworkers. She said KBR's employee assistance program discouraged her from filing a formal report, saying, "You know what will happen if you do," and failed to protect her from her alleged assailants.
KBR has said that it could not comment on Leamon's allegations because they were referred to law enforcement authorities, who are currently investigating them.
"The safety and security of all employees remains KBR's top priority," the company said. "Any allegation of sexual harassment or assault is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly."