Military Rape and Sexual Assault Class Action Lawsuit

 

Jaclyn Ries
usmvaw.com

On February 15, 2011, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, in which Susan L. Burke represented seventeen individuals as they sought justice against former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. The lawsuit states that the defendants, Rumsfeld and Gates failed to investigate the plaintiffs instances of rape and sexual assault, failed to prosecute perpetrators, failed to provide an adequate justice system as required by Uniform Military Justice Act, and failed to abide by Congressional deadlines to implement reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults. The plaintiffs claim that “they have been directly and seriously injured by Defendants actions and omissions,” and seek justice and compensation.

This lawsuit provides vivid stories and details about how each individual dealt with military command, and how they failed to properly respond and handle the situation after the individuals reported their sexual assaults. Several times, command failed to keep the reports confidential and their assailants learned of the instance being reported, furthering the threats and escalating the violence. However, once the allegations were reported by an individual to command, often command would threaten them not to discuss the situation or how it was handled with anyone else. If they did, their career would be at risk.

Other times command would find a way to put the blame on the individual who reported it. For example individuals were accused of lying if their assailant denied the allegations and, they could be forced to sign forms stating that the sex was consensual when in fact it wasn’t, which for males has lead to them being dishonorably discharged. Other times the military would blame it on alcohol, or as in the case of Stephanie Schroeder, would tell individuals, “don’t come to me because you had sex and changed your mind.” Often times after the sexual assault was reported, assailants would be put in charge of the victims, assailants would be allowed to remain on active duty with minimal punishments for their actions, and command would fail to investigate, or even drop the cases.

For more information or to read the lawsuit text and the stories of the seventeen individuals, visit the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) website here.

If you are interested in contacting Burke PLLC about potentially participating in this lawsuit, click here.

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