US Veterans filed a class action lawsuit today against the US Military for the way their sexual assaults and rapes were handled (or not). According to Anuradha Bhagwati, 35, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, said the Defense Department’s own statistics show that fewer than one in five of these cases are even referred for court martial.
The lawsuit was filed today by sister attorneys Susan and Elizabeth Burke of Burke PLLC . From their press release: “Media Advisory: Military Rape and Sexual Assault Litigation – Feb. 15 WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, Feb. 15, a group of U.S. military veterans who allege that they were raped or sexually assaulted during their international and domestic military service will discuss their forthcoming federal-court litigation, which will be filed early that morning, at the National Press Club at 9:30 a.m. Eastern. Scheduled to speak at the news conference in the NPC Murrow Room are: • Several of the veteran plaintiffs in the lawsuit. • Keith Rohman, president, Public Interest Investigations, Inc. (PII), Los Angeles, Calif. • Eleanor Smeal, president, Feminist Majority Foundation, Washington, D.C. • Anuradha Bhagwati, executive director, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), New York, N.Y. • A representative of the veterans’ legal team.”
According to an AP report the plaintiffs “want an objective third party to handle such complaints because individual commanders have too much say in how allegations are handled.”
From the same report: “In one incident, an Army Reservist says two male colleagues raped her in Iraq and videotaped the attack. She complained to authorities after the men circulated the video to colleagues. Despite being bruised from her shoulders to elbows from being held down, she says charges weren’t filed because the commander determined she “did not act like a rape victim” and “did not struggle enough” and authorities said they didn’t want to delay the scheduled return of the alleged attackers to the United States.
“The problem of rape in the military is not only service members getting raped, but it’s the entire way that the military as a whole is dealing with it,” said Panayiota Bertzikis, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit and claims she was raped in 2006. “From survivors having to be involuntarily discharged from service, the constant verbal abuse, once a survivor does come forward your entire unit is known to turn their back on you. The entire culture needs to be changed.”
A post from one of the plaintiffs at My Duty To Speak site for military victims of sexual violence:
Military Rape Crisis Center Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/militaryrapecrisiscenter