Shannon Emery went to Korea to learn to be a military police officer, but the Spokane resident unwittingly got a crash course in how the military is dealing with gays.
Pfc. Emery faces a discharge because of what she says is an unfounded charge she is a lesbian.
Emery believes her troubles began when she complained of sexual harassment after she had been grabbed by a male soldier in her platoon. Two weeks later, she learned she was accused of being a lesbian.
Emery’s case falls under the military’s year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Commanders are not supposed to investigate a soldier’s sexual orientation; soldiers are supposed to be discharged only if they display a propensity to engage in homosexual acts.
Emery’s case is different from most under the policy because she maintains she is heterosexual.
Nonetheless, the Army wants her to admit she’s a lesbian and to grant her a less-than-honorable discharge. Emery plans to fight.
“I’ve always wanted to be an MP. I’ve always wanted to serve my country,” said Emery, 22, a Shadle Park High School graduate. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re always innocent until proven guilty.”
Emery’s mother in Spokane is helping to fight the accusation and is getting members of Congress involved.
After being told of Emery’s case, Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., sent a letter to the Army’s Congressional Affairs Office and opened an inquiry.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army last week stating that she was concerned that the Army may have retaliated against Emery.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” said Carole Grunberg, Murray’s legislative director. “They’re a violation of due process rights, they’re a violation of the `don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and they’re a violation of the laws of the various branches of the service.”
The office of Republican Rep. George Nethercutt is waiting for official action on Emery’s case before getting involved.
“We’re not going to do anything until she has her day in court,” said Ken Lisaius, Nethercutt’s press aide. “We’re not going to get involved in a case where we may not be welcome.”
Emery and her roommate were the only women in one of two platoon residential wings at Camp Carroll, about five hours south of Seoul. Emery’s room was at the far end of the wing; the women’s bathroom was on the other end.
“It was like walking through a gantlet, just to go to the latrine,” Emery said. “We were scared to death. People would try our door to see if it was locked. If it was unlocked they would come right in.”
On Sept. 16, she said, a male soldier grabbed her as she held a videotape. He asked her to make a pornographic movie and to have sexual intercourse with him. Emery said she kneed him in the crotch, and another soldier pulled him away. That same night, her roommate was grabbed by another male soldier.
Emery complained to her superiors two days later.
The men involved were transferred to another platoon, which is standard practice in dealing with sexual harassment charges, said Maj. Mark Newell, an Army spokesman.
“That is the only physical thing I know happened to them,” he said.
Newell said he didn’t know if other punishment occurred. He is the only Army official in Korea who will talk about Emery’s case, and he would not discuss specifics of an ongoing case. Emery’s lawyer, one of 10 Army defense lawyers handling cases in Korea, refused to talk about her client.
Two days after the accused men were transferred, Emery heard rumors that she and three other women in the platoon were being investigated for indecent acts and their sexual orientation.
In mid-October, Emery, Pvt. Dawn Scoville and two other women were notified of the investigation. Scoville admits she’s a lesbian, but denies any sexual misconduct.
Emery said she thinks the accusations are tied to her sexual harassment complaint.
The Army denies any retaliation. The indecent conduct charges are a result of statements signed by two witnesses from the platoon.
One witness, Scoville’s roommate, initially wrote that she “saw two people in the bed and I knew one person was Scoville but I didn’t know who the other person was.” She then wrote that Scoville told her two days later that the person was Emery and they were lovers.
After prodding by a superior, Scoville’s roommate modified her statement to say: “They were naked and one was on top of the other.”
Emery admitted she was in the room at the time, but said she was crying because of the stress from the sexual harassment case and Scoville was comforting her.
The other witness said he saw women from the platoon fondle Korean women in bars. After further questioning, he wrote that he saw Emery watch another woman grab a Korean woman.
Emery said she believes her acting commander encouraged others to make accusations in retaliation for her sexual harassment complaint. She said the two men transferred were friends of the acting commander, whose first name the Army wouldn’t release.
“He did a commander’s inquiry,” Emery said. “He said, `We have 25 statements against Emery. We know she’s gay.’ He went to my roommate. She said, `No, she’s not.’
“Pretty much my name was ruined. He told anybody and everybody.”
Scoville, who arrived in Korea Sept. 7, said she was shocked when she heard rumors that she was sleeping with Emery.
“I was like, `My God, I’ve only been here three weeks,”’ Scoville said. “How could this be happening?”
Such accusations are not that unusual, several civilian experts say.
“This happens unfortunately quite a bit to women who report sexual harassment or rape,” said Michelle Benecke, co-director of the Service Members Legal Defense Network in Washington, D.C. “And this is the sort of situation `don’t ask, don’t tell’ is precisely supposed to change.”
In December, Emery was charged with fondling a Korean citizen and having sex with Scoville. Scoville was charged with having sex with Emery.
The military first asked Emery and Scoville to plead guilty and to name other lesbians, they said.
The Army recently dropped the original charges against Emery, but still wants her to admit being a lesbian and face a less-than-honorable discharge. Otherwise, she faces a dishonorable discharge under the Army’s homosexual chapter.
A hearing on the matter is not yet been scheduled.
Emery would like to stay in the Army, finish five years of service and go to school on the G.I. Bill.
“The stupid ironic thing is, I like my country,” she said. “I’ve learned the military’s not that just.”
Scoville wants out and will be on her way home to Arizona as soon as her discharge papers are signed.
Meanwhile, the rumors about Scoville and Emery continue. When Emery bought a ring for her twin sister in Spokane, rumors began that Emery and Scoville were engaged. Now they supposedly are married.
“It seems they’re trying to harass me into saying something I didn’t do,” Emery said. “It’s like a chess game. They do one move. I do one move.”
The game is hell on her family, half a world away in Spokane.
Emery’s younger sister bought a watch that she has set to Korean time, 17 hours ahead of Spokane. Emery calls her family collect every two to three days - their phone bill is about $600 a month.
“I’m always on edge because we can’t do anything because she’s overseas,” said her mother, Debbie Emery. “As Shannon’s mother, there’s nothing more I’d like to do than hug her. They’re on a witch-hunt over there.”
Marc Emery, Shannon’s father, said the Army made a mistake when it took on his daughter.
“With Shannon, they ran into a brick wall,” he said. “She will not compromise herself. She hasn’t done anything wrong, and she’s not going to admit to it.”
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