Good afternoon. I am standing before you to share with you a personal tragedy. I do this to bring awareness to legislation which is designed to ensure that no American will be deprived of their constitutionally guaranteed right to the fair administration of justice before a jury of their peers and judge, skilled in the law.
I was sent to Camp Hope in the “Green Zone” in Baghdad, Iraq, in July of 2005 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Before my deployment, my employer, Halliburton, showed me photographs of the trailer that I would live in with one other woman and a shared bathroom.
When I moved into my predominantly male barracks upon arrival at Camp Hope, I complained about the living conditions and asked to move into the quarters I had been promised. My requests were not only ignored – they were mocked.
On the fourth day in Iraq, I was socializing outside the barracks with several of the other contractors Halliburton had sent to the Green Zone. The men, identified only as Halliburton firefighters, provided me with an alcoholic drink and one joked that he had “saved all his roofies for Dubai.”
The antics of these men (and so many others in this lawless environment), I would later learn, were well known to the Human Resource personnel and upper management at Halliburton. Those facts were not (at least then) well known to me – or to the general public.
Assuming that the firefighter was only joking, and that we were all on the “same side,” I naively took the drink. Two to three sips later, I remember nothing.
When I awoke in my room, I was naked, I was sore, I was bruised and I was bleeding. As the grogginess wore off and I returned from the bathroom (where evidence that I had been raped was made abundantly clear to me), I found a naked firefighter still lying in the bunk bed. I was shocked. How could he have raped me like that and not even bother to leave? I now know that this is because he knew (though I did not) that there would not likely be punishment for this crime – there had not been before.
After reporting the rape to a KBR Operations Coordinator, I was taken to the Army CASH where a rape kit made it apparent that I had been assaulted both vaginally and anally by multiple perpetrators.
The Army doctor then handed my rape kit to KBR security personnel.
I was then taken to a container where I was held captive by two armed guards – called Ghurkas. I was placed inside – not allowed to leave. I had requested a phone from KBR officials, who denied me this request.
Eventually, one of the guards gave in to my begging and allowed me to use his phone. I called my father, who then contacted Congressman Ted Poe. Congressman Poe then dispatched State Department officials to ensure my release and safe return to the U.S.
Prior to my return to the U.S., Halliburton management told me that I could either “stay and get over it” or go home with no guarantee of a job – either in Houston or in Iraq. The severity of my physical injuries necessitated my decision and I went home in the face of the threats of termination –- which later proved to be true.
When I returned home, the pains in my chest continued and I sought medical help. It was confirmed that my breasts were disfigured and that my pectoral muscles had been torn. Reconstructive surgery was required.
I turned to the civil court system for justice when the criminal system had been slow to respond. I also knew that I had been harmed – not only by the rapists but by the huge corporation that ratified their actions for so long.
The lawless environment that exists in the Green Zone is not only tolerated but promoted by Halliburton’s practices there.
When my lawyers filed suit, they were met with Halliburton’s response that ALL of my claims were to be decided in arbitration – because I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20, and without the advice of counsel, or any choice other than to be terminated.
Their argument, when boiled down, is this:
- Rape is a claim that should not see a jury;
- False imprisonment is a claim that should not see a jury;
- Corporate ratification of criminal behavior is a claim that should not see a jury;
- Intentional tortuous activity is a claim that should not see a jury; and
- Halliburton is a company that should not see a jury.
Arbitration is naturally stacked in favor of business and against the individual:
- Which party is more likely to need the arbitrator more than once? (Several arbitrators have been “black balled” for ruling in favor of individuals, forcing them out of work in the future. Arbitrators know this, and the fact of it weighs heavily upon them.);
- Which party is more likely to use a law firm that the arbitrator may eventually wish to work for?
Arbitration has a place – but that place is when two parties with EQUAL bargaining power, agree to arbitrate a dispute AFTER it arises, and with the advice of counsel:
- Arbitration of corporate disagreements between companies;
- Arbitration of family disputes where both parties agree after consultation with their lawyers; and,
- NOT where a large multibillion-dollar corporation shoves it down the throat of a 20-year-old girl who needs the job to survive.
Unfortunately, my case is not an isolated incident. If arbitration of these claims is forced, then there will be justice for none of the victims of these military contractors’ misdeeds. I have set up the Jamie Leigh Foundation to help women to learn what they can do and where they can turn when they are victimized by military contractors. For those victims out there who have been even further victimized by the hidden arbitration clauses in these contracts, you can contact us for help at jamiesfoundation.org.
Thomas Jefferson said that “no man is above the law and no man below it, nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it.” Here, with the misuse of arbitration, we have made corporate entities in this country – ABOVE THE LAW.
Congress, you have the power to change that law, and hold corporate America accountable to the people. “The People” – whom you are sworn to serve.
Jamie Leigh Jones