Lawsuit Says Military Is Rife With Sexual Abuse

Lawsuit Says Military Is Rife With Sexual Abuse, 16 Feb 2011, New York Times

By Ashley Parker

Kori Cioca, in her lawyer's office on Sunday, described being raped while serving in the Coast Guard. She is one of 17 plaintiffs filing a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense.

WASHINGTON — A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the Department of Defense of allowing a military culture that fails to prevent rape and sexual assault, and of mishandling cases that were brought to its attention, thus violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.

The suit — brought by 2 men and 15 women, both veterans and active-duty service members — specifically claims that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest Congressionally mandated institutional reforms.”

It also says the two defense secretaries failed “to take reasonable steps to prevent plaintiffs from being repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by federal military personnel.”

Myla Haider, a former Army sergeant and a plaintiff in the suit, said she was raped in 2002 while interning in Korea with the military’s Criminal Investigative Command. “It is an atmosphere of zero accountability in leadership, period,” she said an interview.

Ms. Haider, who appeared with other plaintiffs at a news conference earlier Tuesday at the National Press Club, said: “The policies that are put in place are extremely ineffectual. There was severe maltreatment in these cases, and there was no accountability whatsoever. And soldiers in general who make any type of complaint in the military are subject to retaliation and have no means of defending themselves.”

In the complaint, Ms. Haider said she did not report her rape because she “did not believe she would be able to obtain justice.” But she said she joined the suit because she wanted to “address the systematic punishment of soldiers who come forward with any type of complaint,” whether it involves sexual assault or post-traumatic stress disorder related to combat.