The incident took place over a decade ago, when Christina Thundathil, a private at a military base in Kuwait, claims she was returning to her unit from a New Year's party in the early hours of 1 January 2004, where she says she was drugged, before two men jumped on her, kicked her in the stomach and raped her.
Then-Capt. Joni Ernst, who is now a US senator for Iowa, was the commanding officer on the same base at the time the incident occurred. Ernst collected statements from the suspects and delivered them to investigators — a move that some have called a discrepancy.
The accused men said that the sex was consensual and does not qualify as gang rape. Thundathil believes that Ernst gave them an opportunity to put their statements together, to collaborate with each other and dismiss her accusations.
However, Ernst insisted that she was not involved in the probe, which was handled by the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), and did nothing wrong by interviewing the accused man. The case was eventually dismissed, with the investigating unit deciding initially that the alleged victim made false sworn statements — something she says a CID officer coerced her to do.
In her words, the investigators failed to conduct thorough analysis and that her rape kit — effectively the key evidence in the case — was not tested and was later destroyed some three weeks after the alleged sexual assault. One of the accused men was punished for drinking alcohol in the barracks, however.
She was later discharged under honourable conditions for misconduct (she is said to have pointed a gun at a colleague several months before the incident).
Thundathil reportedly suffered a traumatic brain injury after an immersion heater explosion in June 2003; she also claims to have worked at a burn pit, resulting in her picking up a respiratory condition.
She later made a request to the Department of Veteran Affairs to cover her medical expenses, but she didn't receive the coverage until 2012. Her explanation for this delay is that the army based her treatment on the outcome of her rape case.
She now says the consequences appear to be fatal. "Three major systems [in my body] are affected… with each one complicating one another," she wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Caller.
"If I had just one disease, then survival would be great. Yet, with restrictive lung disease, COPD, plus pulmonary hypertension with moderate sleep apnea to lastly having small vessel disease with beginning stages of dementia… My life is cut very short. In frustration I wait…. wait for my ticket to death."