Chaplain Tells Military Sexual Assault Victim: "Rape Was God's Will"

After former Army Sgt. Rebekah Havrilla was sexually assaulted by a fellow service member while serving in Afghanistan, she sought guidance from an Army chaplain. “The rape was God’s will,” the chaplain told her, according to her testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday. Havrilla said the chaplain explained that, “God was trying to get my attention so that I would go back to church.”

The hearings were the first to be held on the issue in almost ten years, and were prompted by recent attention to the matter brought on by films such as the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Invisible War, based in part on Columbia Journalism professor Helen Benedict’s work on the issue. In November, there was a public outcry after the aggravated sexual assault conviction of Air Force Lt. Col. James Wilkerson was overturned and he was reinstated. New Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered a review of the decision in a letter he made public Monday.

The Dart Center has a multitide of resources on sexual violence, including our quick tips on covering sexual violence, from preparing to writing the story. Click for a tip sheet from Miles Moffeit and Kristen Lombardi, who give advice on how to interview victims, and a recent blog on Helen Benedict's question: do we refer to someone who has been sexually assaulted as a “survivor” or a “victim?"