Published February 27, 2012
NORFOLK, Va. – A former Peace Corps worker who taught at a girl's school in rural Uganda told a military jury in Virginia on Monday that a special warfare sailor who does construction work for Navy SEALs raped her multiple times in his hotel room in the East African country's capital.
The trial comes months after Congress responded to complaints that the Peace Corps hasn't done enough to protect its volunteers from sexual assaults with legislation requiring the agency to better train participants in how to avoid such attacks.
The 27-year-old woman, who was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and now lives in Washington, testified in a courtroom at Naval Station Norfolk that her sexual encounter with Petty Officer 2nd Class Camaren Walker in November 2010 started out as consensual.
But after his condom came off twice, she said she wanted him to stop.
She said she tried to push Walker off her, but that he grabbed her throat and held her against the bed. She said he later raped her in the shower when he put her in a choke hold and that she feared she might drown. She said he didn't have to force himself on her the next two times — including once when his roommate was in the next bed — because she was afraid for her life.
Walker's military attorney said the case was simply about a woman who regretted her decision to have sex because she was embarrassed by her behavior. As part of her job, the woman, who graduated from Indiana University, taught girls to avoid peer pressure and to use condoms.
"This is not a case about rape. This is a case about regret," said Lt. Lauren Mayo
The accuser said that she and Walker had met an Irish pub in Kampala while she was out with three other Peace Corps volunteers who were in town for a conference. She said she voluntarily went back to his hotel room with him and that she had no idea he was in the Navy at the time. She said he didn't learn more about him until after she had been assaulted and she had mentioned that she wasn't on birth control. That's when he told her his full name so she could find him on Facebook because he wanted to keep the child if she was pregnant, according to her courtroom testimony.
Mayo said she didn't mention to any of her friends the next day that she had been assaulted. One of her friends said she thought it was "kinky" that the sex was rough and that he had choked her.
"That was my night of hell," the woman later recalled thinking during the exchange.
The Associated Press does not generally identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
It wasn't until days later when she saw a medical worker about emergency contraception that the word rape came up, and only when the medical worker mentioned it, according to courtroom testimony.
Mayo also said that the woman didn't do anything to stop Walker, such as scream, slap him or try to leave the hotel room.
"You didn't do anything to stop him, did you?" Mayo said to the woman, who simply responded "No."
At other times during her testimony, the woman said she didn't scream because it was too difficult to breathe while she was being choked. She also said she didn't leave the hotel room until the morning because Uganda is too dangerous of a country for a foreign woman to wander alone during the early morning hours.
In April, during a procedure that is similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court, Walker's attorneys had suggested that charges were only being brought forward due to political pressure. The Peace Corps had been under criticism for not doing enough to protect is volunteers from crime, particularly sexual assault. In May, Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams appeared before a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing to apologize for the agency's shortcomings on volunteer safety issues
In November, Congress passed a bill requiring the Peace Corps to develop sexual assault risk-education and response training. The legislation also requires the agency to establish a victim's support office.
Walker's trial is scheduled to resume Tuesday.
Online: Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis