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Sexual assault victim claims Air Force failed her
McKyla Earl believed that joining the Air Force in 2002 would help launch a career in law enforcement. Instead, she became disillusioned by military service plagued by two sexual assaults and repeated sexual harassment.

The 26-year-old woman, now married and living in Ceres, is seeking to rebuild her life.

Now suffering from bulimia nervosa - which led to her eventual discharge from the Air Force - Earl alleges that the Air Force failed to protect her while serving and didn't gave her adequate medical and counseling services she has needed.

"They owe it to me to help me and not just ignore me and pretend like it didn't happen and try to sweep it under the rug and hide it because it might make the military look bad," said Earl. "They don't protect the victim. They care more about appearances than helping the victims."

Thanks to the assistance of Congressman Dennis Cardoza, Earl's disability case is now reopened with Veterans Affairs. Until now, the VA has offered her only 10 percent disability, which offers her $125 per month. Earl is seeking increased disability - saying she'd be content with 50 percent - and medical coverage.

She said an official acknowledgment would also be nice.

McKyla's fight has been aided by her new husband, Ceres resident John Kirby, who runs his own billboard company, USA Outdoor Media. Her cause has also been assisted by Steven Nascimento, a field representative with Cardoza's office. As a result of her case being reopened, McKyla decided to go public about her experiences.

Earl said she didn't want out of the Air Force at the point of her Oct. 3, 2005 medical discharge but "just wanted help."

"They never got me help," said Earl. "I tried getting treatment but all they do is get you up on drugs and say 'here's some pamphlets and we'll see you next week.'"

She filed a disability claim for post traumatic stress disorder after her discharge but was unable emotionally to recount her rapes in enough detail to satisfy documentation requirements.

"The military really drags their feet on post traumatic stress (cases) because they are counting on people being so emotionally upset about it that they're just going to give up and say they can't do it, that it's not worth it."

The action of Cardoza's office helped to end years of feet dragging, she said.

"They had service connection for my bulimia but the military doctors told them that I was in remission but I wasn't. I sought help immediately after and spent thousands of dollars of my own money for treatment."

Her problem with bulimia grew from the first assault in a series of unfortunate experiences with fellow servicemen. She enlisted July 16, 2002 fresh out of Anderson High School in Anderson. After graduating from basic at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Earl was assigned as to chef tech school and sent to the missile fields near Minot, N.D., where she cooked for military police and other personnel. The job "out in the middle of nowhere" with a nearly all-male crew made her vulnerable to frequent sexual harassments. That October, McKyla, then 17, befriended a married 30-year-old senior airman to get pointers on getting into law enforcement since he served as a deputy in San Diego County.

"I was really interested in talking to him because I wanted to be a cop and I felt he could give me some pointers," she said. "I talked to him as much as I could."

She accepted his invitation to talk more about police work over dinner, then an offer to watch a movie at his place where she said he raped her. Earl chose not to report the rape.

"I was afraid I would get in trouble and I was pretty much paralyzed," said Earl. "After everything was over I was bawling in the bathroom because he took my virginity. I never talked to him again."

Initially her way of dealing with things was to put them out of her mind, but gave way to binging and purging.

A month later she was sexually assaulted again, this time by a second male during a San Antonio hotel party celebrating graduation from naval chef tech school. A female friend who was sharing a hotel room with her, took off, leaving her bored since it was a drinking party and she doesn't drink. Earl contacted a male friend to talk to.

"He drank a lot and got plastered. He wasn't himself. I don't blame him; I blame the alcohol."

She didn't report the second rape either.

"It's difficult for people to understand about not reporting," explained Earl. "When you're the victim you don't ever want to think about it again. You just want to get on with your life and pretend it didn't happen."

A series of other incidences also contributed to her problems. She found herself the repeated target of sexual harassment, mostly from two men who were explicit with her. McKyla remembers being asked to take showers with other men. She reported at least two superiors.

"My female commander said I had to press charges. I reported it. There were a lot of witnesses to that. They all pretty much retaliated against me. One sergeant got demoted to senior airman and I did get restraining orders against them both."

McKyla noted that the Air Force says "that they take all these things seriously but they don't take into account what happens after you report. They can't stop these people that you live with out in missile field all alone with all. You ratted on their brothers and fellow cops and they're pretty pissed. It just made it worse."

In another incident, McKyla broke off a relationship with an airman who reacted by pointing a shotgun at her and threatening to kill her. She ran to safety but he later stalked her until she obtained a restraining order against him.

Earl said she was also troubled that an Air Force commander refused to prosecute an airman -an ex-boyfriend of hers - who stole her checks and forged her signature to pay some of his bills.