Military Sexual Abuse Lawsuit
Pentagon Faces Lawsuit for Failure to Protect Service Members from Rape in the Military
The Pentagon faces a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of 15 female and two male victims of rape in the military. Attorney Burke has filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of Northern Virginia on behalf of the plaintiffs on 15 February 2011. The lawsuit names Secretaries of the Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates, for failing in their duty to provide justice to the victims of rape and sexual assault in the military by not investigating cases of rape and sexual assault and thus not prosecuting perpetrators.
The lawsuit contends that defendants failed to comply with the Uniform Military Justice Act by not ensuring an adequate judicial system to prosecute perpetrators of such a serious crime. The plaintiffs accuse the defendants of failing to meet Congressional deadlines to implement institutional reforms ordered by the Congress to prevent rapes and other sexual crimes.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse the Department of Defense for running institutions where perpetrators of rape were promoted, where military personnel mocked at the institutional reforms, where victims were subjected to retaliation and discouraged from reporting rapes or cases of sexual assault. The lawsuit contends that the failure of the DoD in monitoring its internal organization encouraged the perpetrators to carry on their illicit acts within the military. The plaintiffs also complain that the perpetrators would keep threatening the victims not to report their wrongdoings and to maintain silence without divulging anything about the wrongdoings of their service colleagues. The lawsuit claims that such inaction by the DoD prevented “prosecution” of the
The lawsuit accuses the defendants for their failure to make considerable progress and marked improvement in the “Pentagon’s abysmal record” to tolerate as serious a crime as rape and sexual abuse.
One plaintiff, 29-year-old Panayiota Bertzikis, who was a former Coast Guard member, blames the DOD for its improper dealing with the issue of rape in the military. In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that after her rape, she complained about the same to her commanding officer, who did not take substantial steps to investigate the wrongdoing; rather, she had to bear mental harassment when she was asked to stay on the same floor as the offender. The plaintiff, blaming the entire military culture for the situation, complains of mistreatment and verbal abuse and even involuntary release from the service once the victim brings the wrongdoing forward. The plaintiff also complains that she had to tolerate verbal abuse from her colleagues, who started calling her a “liar” and “whore” after she reported the incident.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs complain of “retaliation by hostile commanders” once the gruesome wrongdoing is reported. The plaintiffs accuse their fellow service members of torturing them physically and psychologically.
The lawsuit complains that only one in five sexual predators or alleged rapists in the military ever see a courtroom and simply get away with slaps on the wrist. The plaintiffs accuse the military of failing to prosecute and convict these sexual perpetrators, who are most of the time serial offenders, and of not providing a sexual predator registry to civilian authorities. The lawsuit complains that this negligence on the part of the military gives a free hand to military sexual offenders to continue with their sexual offenses.
The lawsuit blames defendants Gates and Rumsfield for protecting rapists from punishment and thus indulging in injustice. The plaintiffs accuse the military of continuing with its so-called culture, where sexual predators mostly go scot-free and the victims of sexual assault and rape continue to be victimized.
The DOD has itself admitted in its 2009 annual report on sexual assaults in the military that the “hostile environment” in the military is responsible for the situation, wherein “only 20 percent of service members who experience 'unwanted sexual contact' report the matter to a military authority." The lawsuit contends that going by DOD's admission, the figures of rape and sexual assault in 2006 are startling, when only 2,947 cases were reported, which means there were actually 14,735 cases that went unreported that year.
The lawsuit asserts that the DOD must claim responsibility for this situation, where 80 percent of the victims of sexual abuse and rape keep undergoing mental stress, trauma, and physical abuse and fail to report the wrongdoing, fearing retaliation in the form of blackballing and verbal abuse by fellow service members. The lawsuit contends that sexual predators in the military often abuse those with the least amount of rank, which is the key reason for so many sexual violence cases in the military remaining unreported.
The lawsuit blames the “military culture” that prevents victims from reporting rape and sexual assault, as doing so would have "lasting career and security clearance repercussions."
The lawsuit accuses the DOD of allowing unit commanders to opt for non-judicial punishment for such allegations as sexual assault, sexual harassment, and rape. The plaintiffs contend that this action of the DOD prevented them from seeking justice in the civil court, which prosecutes 40 percent of the sexual perpetrators compared to the 8 percent military court-martial prosecution statistics.
The lawsuit claims that negligence and inaction on the part of the DOD has ensured that women cadets have to “endure” abysmal conditions at the military academies due to sexual violence. The class-action suit asserts that a majority of the incidents of sexual abuse and rape occurred in Iraq and Afghanistan, though quite a few took place on the US soil as well.
The lawsuit blames that the DOD inaction on bringing perpetrators of military sexual violence to justice brought to an end careers of some of the finest women service members after their “abuse and betrayal.”
The class-action lawsuit seeks justice for the victims of sexual abuse and violence in the military and prosecution of sexual predators and perpetrators.