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Bend woman, sexually assaulted by Navy recruiter 5 years ago, aims to change guidelines for military recruiting

(Update: Adding video, comments from Gunderson, attorney James Branum)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Annette "Lavender" Gunderson is a 23-year-old Bend resident who is seeking to change regulations and guidelines that govern military recruiting after she was a victim of sexual assault by her Navy recruiter back in 2018.

Gunderson grew up with dreams of being in the United States Navy -- until her recruiter, Trace Oliver Harris, committed sexual assault acts against her when she was just 17. He continued to abuse her, even attempting to blackmail her into silence.

"I was a minor whenever I enlisted, I was 17. The age of consent in Oregon is 18. I was raped by my recruiter in delayed entry program," Gunderson told us Wednesday.

Gunderson eventually reported the crimes, and did so as an “unrestricted reporter,” meaning that the allegation was known by her future command when she shipped out to boot camp.

"I was retaliated against while in basic training" Gunderson said. "I was told in the middle of training that I didn't qualify for military sexual assault counseling for life, or therapy, or medical or a lawyer."

Her recruiter, now 31-year-old Harris, was ordered in Deschutes County court in May 2020 to serve 45 days in jail, three years probation and 200 hours of community service, as well as a $10,000 compensatory fine for Gunderson's therapy.

He also remained in the Navy.

As a result, Gunderson and her attorney want to create legislation, protecting sexual assault victims in the military.

Her lawyer, James Branum, told NewsChannel 21 Wednesday: "There have been some improvements in regulations regarding recruiter abuse in recent years. But often they don't fully implement them. So we want to see them in federal law, because federal law is something the military has to do."

They also want recruiters to be forbidden from speaking to anyone under 18.

Gunderson believes she's the first woman in the U.S. to be recorded as a survivor of recruiter abuse who made an unrestricted report of that abuse before going to boot camp.

In addition to working on legislation, Gunderson is seeking an upgrade of her discharge through the Board for Correction of Naval Records. "So now, she would have increased access to the VA healthcare and what not" Branum said.

Gunderson has raised nearly $2,000 for a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers. Their goal is $5,000.

If you'd like to donate to help Gunderson with her travel expenses, you can learn more here.

Article Topic Follows: War-Military

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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