FORT SILL — The 18-year-old private thought nothing of it in January when another member of her unit invited her to his barracks room to watch a movie. They had been friends since shortly after basic training.
In his room, he turned on her. He forced his hand down her shorts, grabbed her breast and exposed himself. When she resisted, he choked her.
Last month, the soldier found himself in a courtroom at this sprawling Army post 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City, facing a court-martial.
Seven years after the Pentagon committed to crack down on sexual crimes in the ranks, such cases continue to plague the military.
Of 15 courts-martial at Fort Sill in 2011, five involved sexual assaults, all but one of those on other service members.
From basic training to front-line units, the military long has struggled with the issue of sexual assault.
In 2004, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered a review of how the military handled such cases after female soldiers said they were sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers while serving in Iraq and Kuwait. As a result, the services beefed up investigations and prosecutions, strengthened victim advocacy efforts and ordered everyone from privates to generals to receive prevention training.
Despite those efforts, an estimated 20,000 violent sex crimes were committed in the U.S. military last year, according to Defense Department data.
In the active-duty Army, the number of violent sex crimes, such as rape, sexual assault and forcible sodomy, has increased every year since 2006. Army figures from 2011, the latest available, show 2,290 such crimes were committed, a 5 percent increase over 2010 and an almost 9 percent increase over 2009.
Pentagon officials have attributed the rise to increased reporting rather than a higher number of incidents. Even so, the military estimates as many as 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
One study showed as many as 40 percent of female veterans reported military sexual trauma that resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and sleep difficulty.
Although women make up only 14 percent of the Army, they comprise 95 percent of all victims of violent sex crimes, according to the recently released Army report.
The report found that about half of all rapes occur in barracks. Typically, victims are 18 to 22 years old, within their first 18 months of service and almost always are acquainted with their attacker.
Many of those factors were at play in the court-martial last month at Fort Sill.
Fort Sill incident
Typically, about 9,000 military members are permanently stationed at Fort Sill, a 150-square-mile post that is home to many of the military's artillery training units. In addition, about 17,000 soldiers pass through every year undergoing basic combat training. The fort also trains about 9,800 officers and 2,500 noncommissioned officers each year.
The victim testified she and her attacker became friends months earlier while training to serve in a Patriot missile battery.
On the night of the attack, she said, he'd called to ask her to go out and “catch up.”
After a restaurant dinner, they returned to his barracks room, where the victim testified Pvt. Matthew Raczykowski assaulted her.
“He was really aggressive,” she said.
The victim testified she felt “trapped, isolated and fearful.”
Her squad leader testified that in the weeks after the attack a motivated soldier who was eager to learn and get promoted became distant, distracted and distrustful of the men in her unit. The assault affected her ability to train and on one occasion forced him to cancel training for the entire squad.
Raczykowski, 18, faced charges that could have cost him up to a year in jail, reduction in rank, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and a bad conduct discharge. Conviction also would have required him to register as a sex offender.
Instead, in a pretrial agreement, Raczykowski, who, like the victim, had only been in the military six months when the assault took place, agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges that eliminated the sexual nature of the crimes and dropped an adultery charge, according to Col. Jeff Pedersen, Fort Sill's staff judge advocate.
Before sentencing, Raczykowski, fresh-faced with close-cropped blond hair, took the witness stand in his Army dress blue uniform. In a voice that showed little emotion, he apologized to the victim and to his family.
He said he knew what he had done was wrong and that he was willing to accept his punishment. He called the assault “the biggest mistake of my life.”
“There are no excuses for my actions,” he said.
When asked by Judge Lt. Col. Patricia Lewis to explain his behavior, the private responded, “I was being stupid and trying to get her attention, your honor.”
He denied several times that his intentions were to gratify his sexual desires or personal lust.
“Just messing around, your honor,” he offered again and again as an explanation.
The military prosecutor, Maj. Jonathon H. Cody, argued Raczykowski's actions were intentional, aggressive and that he'd used physical violence to get his way.
Cody said the attack had made a jovial soldier afraid to trust her squad mates.
“A fear so overwhelming … she's been unable to perform her mission,” Cody said. “A crime so low … needs to be punished harshly.”
Cody asked that Raczykowski receive the maximum sentence to ensure he never did anything like this again and to send a message to others in the unit, which is set to deploy overseas soon.
“It's important for others to know that violating the simple command — do not assault your fellow soldiers — has consequences,” Cody said.
Raczykowski's lawyer, Capt. Michael Townsend Jr., asked for leniency, noting his client's age, potential and short Army career.
Raczykowski's young wife sat in the front-row and, at times, sobbed. The couple married just weeks before the attack while Raczykowski was home on holiday leave.
In the end, the judge sentenced him to seven months confinement, forfeiture of two-thirds of his $1,671 monthly pay for 12 months, reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge.
The sentence still must be approved by McDonald, the commanding general, who could lessen the sentence.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Raczykowski will not have to register as a sex offender, Pedersen said.