- Allison Bailey was a North Valleys High student who joined the Nevada National Guard at age 17.
- The Guard launched a misconduct investigation against her that led to demotion and an “other than honorable” discharge in January.
- Bailey says a fellow Guard member raped her. Her physical and mental health deteriorated, and she died March 4, six weeks after her discharge.
Under the direction of its leader Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, the Nevada National Guard launched a zero-tolerance campaign in January 2021 to address sexual assault. It encouraged soldiers to report rape no matter how much time had passed and vowed to support them.
That same month, Sgt. First Class Allison Bailey reported being raped twice the previous May and June by a fellow Guardsman of lower rank.
The North Valleys High School student had been steadily rising through the ranks ever since enlisting in Reno for the Nevada National Guard at age 17, when she was still so young that her Air Force veteran mother had to sign for her.
She was a trusted member of the service. The commander of her unit – the medical detachment – is based in Reno, but the unit is located in Las Vegas, where Bailey was its senior noncommissioned officer there.
Bailey’s rape claims were not believed. Instead, her alleged rapist was believed when he said the two sexual encounters were consensual.
Her last performance review before the alleged rapes said she had exceeded expectations, was a natural-born leader and should be promoted before her peers.
After siding with her alleged attacker, the Nevada National Guard used what happened between them as the no. 1 charge in a 22-item misconduct investigation: “Sex with a subordinate.”
“I feel as if I am being punished for being sexually assaulted,” Bailey wrote in an April 2021 email for Berry.
Bailey’s mental and physical health worsened. She started the process for a medical discharge.
Bailey received mediocre and then negative performance reviews after years of positive ones.
She was demoted for misconduct.
On Jan. 15, 2023, she was kicked out of the Nevada National Guard with an “other than honorable” discharge.
Six weeks later, Bailey collapsed and died – a death her family links to the Guard’s actions following her alleged rapes.
“I watched her deteriorate over the course of the ordeal with the Nevada National Guard,” said her mother, Felicia Cavanaugh, from her Reno home.
The military attorney who defended Bailey against the misconduct claims was so appalled by what happened to her, he resigned from the Nevada National Guard.
“I lost faith in the commanders and, in the end, in the military justice system,” Capt. Christopher Tinsman said.
Nevada National Guard public affairs officer Capt. Emerson Marcus said he understands why some people feel frustrated with how sexual assault cases are charged and prosecuted.
“We empathize with all victims,” he said in an email. “In the case of Ms. Bailey, the Nevada National Guard did everything in its power to assist her in coming forward and ensured procedures in place – including an investigation by the Nevada Department of Public Safety – were followed appropriately.”
Not wanting to report rape
Allison Bailey didn’t want to report being raped. She didn’t even want to talk about it.
It took her more than two months to tell her boyfriend, Sam Boyd.
He’s also in the Nevada National Guard. They crossed paths when he returned from his third tour – this one of Afghanistan – in 2016.
By 2017, they were living together in a Las Vegas house with her two sons from a previous relationship.
“She was very hesitant to report the sexual assault,” Boyd said. “She knew it was gonna be tough.”
Sandy Duchac said it’s especially difficult for those in the military to come forward about rape because they’ve been trained to trust and defend their fellow soldiers with their lives.
Duchac is a Navy veteran and vice president of Veteran Sisters, a group that supports survivors of military sexual trauma, and she’d been working with Bailey to get her other-than-honorable discharge upgraded.
“She considered it a last-ditch nuclear option,” Duchac said of reporting sexual assault.
Bailey believed it would ruin her attacker’s career in the military and probably hurt others in the chain of command, Duchac said.
“So she didn’t want to do it,” Duchac said. “She loved the Guard.”
But after the Nevada National Guard launched a misconduct investigation against Bailey on Jan. 4, 2021, based on anonymous complaints about her leadership behavior, she filed an official report of sexual assault three weeks later.
Col. Kevin Remus said he finds the fact that Bailey didn’t come forward until after the misconduct case opened to be suspicious. He provides legal review for all sexual assault reports in the Nevada National Guard. He was also the prosecuting attorney in the hearing over whether to discharge Bailey for bad conduct.
“None of this is brought to our attention until she was in the hot seat,” Remus said of Bailey’s rape report. “And that’s the part that disturbs me the most: the timing.”
Remus expressed sympathy for the accused Guardsman “just thinking he’s having a consensual affair with somebody” and suddenly he’s facing a 25-to-life crime.
He pointed to screenshots of pornographic-sounding text messages from the police investigation indicating she was a willing participant.
“You can see 70 pages of very explicit text messages between Bailey and the male that would make it hard for anyone to believe it was not a consensual relationship,” he said.
Boyd said she was prepared for such reactions.
“She knew she was gonna be called a liar, that people were going to come at her and not believe her,” he said. “And she just kept going. She held her ground throughout this entire process.”
Police investigation into alleged rapes
As soon as Bailey officially reported being raped Jan. 29, 2021, the misconduct investigation was put on hold.
To avoid bias, Nevada law requires a third party handle Nevada National Guard sexual assault cases. The state police – formally called the Nevada Department of Public Safety – has the exclusive contract.
Detective Kyle McKnight interviewed Bailey about what she says were rapes by the same man at two alcohol-fueled parties about eight months earlier.
McKnight also talked to her boyfriend and two other people who said Bailey told them about the assaults not long after.
Her alleged attacker was also interviewed. The RGJ is not naming the Guardsman because he was never charged in the case.
He provided screenshots of text messages to support his contention that the sex with Bailey at the parties was consensual.
McKnight’s summary of the interview says her alleged attacker “consented to a full forensic download of his cell phone.” However, he later rescinded that consent and would not turn over his phone.
After getting a search warrant, McKnight seized the phone but the Guardsman would not reveal its passcode to allow the state police to verify whether the text messages were real.
McKnight later wrote, “The forensic download was unable to recover the text messages between (REDACTED) and Bailey.”
The state police did not say Bailey had not been raped. The conclusion was that no one had been located who witnessed the alleged rapes except the two parties involved and that no other evidence could be located showing that rapes happened.
McKnight’s final report – dated June 9, 2021, almost exactly one year after the alleged rapes – ended: “Investigation closed, insufficient evidence for prosecution.”
According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, out of every 1,000 instances of rape, only 13 cases will get referred to a prosecutor.
Misconduct investigation and a claim of bias
The text messages were part of the evidence used against Bailey that led to her discharge.
In his appeal of the misconduct findings, her defense counsel, Tinsman, highlighted that the state police could not verify them and that there are numerous online services able to generate realistic-looking fake text threads.
But bias was the main point of his appeal.
When Bailey found out who’d been appointed investigating officer in her misconduct case, “I immediately asked for another because there is no way she could not be biased as she was very good friends with (the alleged attacker) and his wife, going over for breakfast etc.,” she wrote in a document found on her phone after her death.
Tinsman also requested that the investigating officer be replaced. This did not happen.
Remus said it was “not true” the investigator knew the alleged rapist well.
“There is no evidence of bias,” he said.
“The Nevada National Guard is not a huge organization. People may know each other, but I don’t agree with that assessment at all. As far as I know, the alleged perpetrator and the person that investigated – I don’t know if they’re good friends or anything like that. I read an investigation – the evidence supported its conclusions and that’s what matters.”
Dwight Stirling said there’s a fundamental rule of fairness in the JAG Corps, the military’s legal arm, that an investigating officer must be impartial and unbiased.
Stirling teaches law at the University of Southern California, is a retired JAG officer in the California National Guard, and is founder and CEO of the Center for Law and Military Policy, a think tank dedicated to strengthening legal protections of soldiers.
“When there’s even a whisper of bias by the investigating officer, the only proper remedy is to replace that person with someone who is not biased,” he said.
Deterioration of career and health
Bailey’s discharge was not unique to the Nevada National Guard.
A 2016 Department of Defense Inspector General report looked at more than 15,000 sexual assault reports in the military over the previous six years. It found that one-third of those making the claim were discharged, typically within seven months of filing a report.
“When a woman in the military is sexually assaulted,” said Duchac of Veteran Sisters, “she’s betrayed three times: by the brother in arms who raped her, by her chain of command that blames her or ignores her, and by the American people who just don’t want to know.”
In addition to the mental toll a sexual assault can have, it also frequently leads to long-term effects on the body.
Sibelia Chaiyahat said stomach issues, headaches and a racing heart are common. She’s a licensed social worker with a Ph.D. in psychology who works with veterans who have PTSD at her clinic in Oceanside, California. She has a focus on sexual trauma.
“If you develop PTSD – which is what happens if you don’t get the opportunity to process trauma – it can lead to serious physical problems,” she said.
After Bailey said she was raped, her mental and physical health began a downward spiral.
Tinsman, who defended her against the misconduct charges, had an office near Bailey at the Las Vegas base and knew her for quite a while.
“By the time she became a client, she was a different person,” he said.
She had been the type of officer you could sense was in charge and knew what she was doing, Tinsman said, but she became a shell of former herself.
“She seemed like someone who had been under assault,” he said. “I don’t mean necessarily a physical assault, but that her psyche or whatever had been attacked to the point of her being a smaller person than she’d been before.”
This was reflected in her performance reviews.
Before reporting rape, her evaluations said she “exemplified (the) meaning of professionalism,” “outperformed” noncommissioned officers above her and had “unlimited potential.”
After reporting rape, an evaluation said she “had difficulty in controlling her emotions,” “allowed her personal issues to overshadow her performance” and “showed no effort to view her difficult situation as an opportunity to better her performance.”
Bailey was fully aware of the changes in herself.
“My mental health quickly deteriorated since I was assaulted,” she wrote in a note found on her phone.
She referenced a diagnosis she’d received at a Las Vegas mental health clinic for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD and night terrors along with increased anxiety medication,” she said.
“I have gained and lost over 50 pounds, I have lost 75% of my hair. I started having seizures and extreme fear of leaving my house.”
She was also worried about how her transformation was affecting her sons, who Boyd said were the most important things in the world to her.
“My children have had to watch their mother become some other human being that no one wants to be sucked into and be around,” Bailey wrote. “The rape fails in comparison to what I have been through since.”
See also:What happens when a sexual assault is reported in Nevada National Guard?
More:2019 change to Nevada law kept Guard soldier from having case heard in court
Allison Bailey’s death
On March 4, six weeks after the bad conduct discharge, Bailey collapsed on her kitchen floor in Las Vegas.
She was found by her two sons, ages 10 and 15, and taken to a hospital, where she died.
Her death certificate says her heart and lungs stopped after her blood pressure dangerously dropped.
A third listed cause was advanced hepatitis cirrhosis, which is often linked to heavy alcohol consumption.
“I’m not going to pretend she didn’t drink,” her mother said.
What she didn’t know was that her daughter had also started on multiple medications for depression, anxiety and night terrors, Cavanaugh said.
The combination of five prescriptions plus lots of Tylenol for frequent headaches can be a stressor on the liver and kidneys.
An autopsy was not done. Because of this, it’s not possible to know for sure how much the various factors – alcohol, high levels of medication and PTSD – played a role.
“All I can say is she went from a healthy, outgoing extrovert to an introvert who wouldn’t leave the house and suffered from severe anxiety and depression,” Cavanaugh said.
Bailey would not seek help for her weakening body because she thought she had no health care.
“She told me, ‘I can’t go to the doctor because I can’t afford it,’” Cavanaugh said.
The Guard confirmed that when someone is other-than-honorably discharged, their health coverage ends.
Just before Bailey’s death, Cavanaugh was traveling back from South Carolina with her husband.
In a last video call with her daughter, “I said, ‘Honey, you don’t look good. We’re gonna be there in two days, and we’re going to take you to the hospital.’”
They never got the chance.
“They not only took her life in my opinion,” she said of the Nevada National Guard, “they took the last 2 1/2 years of her life as well.”
Protecting soldiers who report sexual assault
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month.
In preparation, the Nevada National Guard has held multiple meetings so far this year. It has posted fliers with QR codes and the contact info for its sexual assault response team in armories and office areas around the state.
“The Nevada National Guard is working hard to bring awareness to sexual assault and to support its members who report it,” Guard spokesperson Marcus said.
“We really have changed a lot since Gen. Berry took over” in September 2019, he added.
Cavanaugh said she will believe the Guard is truly supporting and protecting soldiers who report sexual assault when she sees what Berry does in regard to her daughter’s case. One of the first things she did after Bailey died last month was to write him.
“I asked him to do a full investigation of all the proceedings when my daughter filed her complaint: how her complaint was handled and how the complaints against her were handled,” she said.
“I think an outside agency should do it.”
She wants her daughter’s rank restored to what it was when she filed her sexual assault claim and for her discharge classification to be upgraded to honorable – “because she served honorably and so her sons get their benefits.”
Cavanaugh hasn’t stopped there. She’s been emailing everyone else she can think of, from Nevada’s congressional delegation to the Pentagon.
She doesn’t think any soldier who files a sexual assault claim should have to go through what her daughter did.
“She’s not alone,” Cavanaugh said. “And she will not be the last if a full investigation doesn’t happen and people are held accountable.”
Mark Robison covers local government for the Reno Gazette-Journal. This story is made possible by the nonprofit RGJ Fund, which pays 100% of Mark Robison’s wages. If you’d like to see more stories like this one,please consider donating. Share your comments with him firstname.lastname@example.org.