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'A Marine's Story' highlights importance of preventing sexual assault

(U.S. Air Force photo by Laura Mowry)

Mary Lauterbach, who tragically lost her daughter in 2007 after a sexual assault by a fellow Marine, spoke to the Edwards community about "A Marine's Story" Aug. 10 in the Base Theater. The story she told about her daughter, Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, garnered national media attention and inspired her to continue telling the story to create awareness, prevent future assaults and encourage victims to come forward. (Air Force Photo by Laura Mowry)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Edwards gathered in the Base Theater Aug. 10 to hear Mary Lauterbach tell her daughter's story about the tragic consequences of sexual assault.

"A Marine's Story," as told by the courageous mother, detailed the circumstances surrounding the death of Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach, who was brutally murdered in 2007, at the age of 20 by a fellow Marine.

Not only did Lauterbach's story remind the Edwards community that sexual assaults don't just happen outside the gates of military installations, it emphasized just how important it is to take action and ultimately what can happen when you fail to do so.

According to Lauterbach, she tells the story because she wants to change the mentality about sexual assault, throughout the military.

"This is the one crime where the victim has to prove their innocence," said Lauterbach. "Eyes need to be opened. I'll do whatever it takes to change that culture."

Not passing judgment was one of Lauterbach's key messages throughout "A Marine's Story."

"Often times people are blindsided by opinions of predators or their victims. Perfect victims get preyed upon," said Lauterbach. "And that was the case with Maria."

Lauterbach was referring to her daughter's role as what she describes as "the perfect victim."

Before Maria came forward as a sexual assault victim, she was caught stealing $30 from a slush fund at work. In "A Marine's Story," her mother describes it as the most expensive $30 of her life.

When Maria stepped forward, her leadership failed to take action. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service failed to take action. On paper, the Marine who assaulted her was flawless.

Assumptions and opinions of those surrounding Maria and their failure forced her to pay the ultimate price.

"If a victim comes forward, use compassion and don't leap to judgment," said Lauterbach. "In all things use compassion. The Marines have been so wonderful and supportive. It's wonderful to see them understand and actively want to change the culture. These guys get it."

By continuing to tell Maria's story, Lauterbach hopes to create awareness, prevent future assaults and encourage victims to step forward.