- Associated Press - Thursday, September 11, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A woman said Thursday she was drugged and raped while a member of the Alaska Army National Guard, but her complaints to guard commanders went nowhere.

“It was all just ignored,” said Melissa Jones.

Jones, who now lives in Paris, Illinois, spoke at an Anchorage teleconference by phone Thursday at the invitation of the Alaska Women for Political Action. She said the trauma of the experience and the way she was treated by the guard led to a suicide attempt in 2011. She got counseling that same year and continues to get counseling today, said Jones, now a sergeant with the Illinois National Guard.

Jones said she and a large group of Alaska National Guard peers were at an Anchorage bar in 2007 when someone slipped something into her drink. She was incapacitated when she was sexually assaulted later at her apartment, and has no idea who her attacker or attackers were, she said.

Her accounting came days after Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell came under fire following the release of a report detailing allegations of fraud and sexual assaults in the Alaska National Guard. Parnell forced the resignation of his adjutant general overseeing the National Guard, but that didn’t stop criticism against the governor, who has made reducing violence against women a hallmark of his administration.

Jones said not only were her complaints ignored, her confidentiality was breached and many of her fellow guard members learned about the assault, she said. One member even told her he had heard two stories, one that she was gang-raped by her entire company and another that someone broke into her apartment and raped her.

The Associated Press usually does not identify people who may be victims of sexual abuse, but Jones spoke publicly about her allegations.

She never reported the assault to Anchorage police. In hindsight, she said, today she would have stood up more to commanders and would reach out to law enforcement. But then she was full of self-blame, as victims can be, she said.

“I was shocked, I was humiliated, embarrassed,” Jones said. “As a victim, you initially go through so many ranges of emotion. You don’t even know which way is up or down, even.”

Jones agreed with critics who have said Parnell did not do enough in response to sexual assault allegations within the guard since allegations began emerging in 2010. Parnell is seeking re-election in November.

Parnell said Thursday he had the same concerns as Jones. After the report was released last week, Parnell said his office would hear concerns and go to guard leaders and be assured the matter was being handled and given descriptions of how it was handled.

He noted that investigations requested by Alaska’s two U.S. senators found the same thing. He said it was only in February that he obtained concrete examples of how the command structure was failing guard members. He took those concerns to the National Guard Bureau, whose Office of Complex Investigations conducted the review that led to the 229-page report.

The report, released Sept. 4, found that victims do not trust the system because of a lack of confidence in the command to handle sexual assault cases. In a statement released at the time of the report, Parnell apologized to those who had been victimized.

“I am extremely frustrated that it took so long to get to the root of these issues,” he said. “Our Alaska Guard members deserve better; the victims who have been hurt and discouraged deserve better; and those who have brought complaints forward deserve better.”

Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker said Thursday that Parnell should immediately have called for an independent investigation in 2010.

“It was absolutely not handled properly,” Walker said. “There’s no question about that.”

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Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro .

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