Hardly noticed, just like any celebration of Susan B. Anthony's birthday, is the filing of a lawsuit - finally - calling attention to the crimes against women by the military.
Gates, Rumsfeld Sued Over U.S. Military's Rape Epidemic
By Jesse Ellison
February 15, 2011 | 9:01am
A landmark lawsuit filed Tuesday against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, alleges that the military's repeated failures to take action in rape cases created a culture where violence against women was tolerated, violating the plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights.
“There are three types of women in the Army,” says Rebecca Havrilla, a former sergeant and explosive-ordnance-disposal technician. “Bitch, dyke, and whore.” During the four years that Havrilla was on active duty, she was called all three—by fellow soldiers, team leaders, even unit commanders. Once, during a sexual-assault prevention training, the 28-year-old South Carolina native claims, she watched a fellow soldier—male—strip naked and dance on top of a table as the rest of the team laughed. While deployed in Afghanistan, Havrilla spent four months working under a man she alleges bit her neck, pulled her into his bed, and grabbed her butt and waist—on a daily basis. When, on the last day of her deployment, she alleges she was raped by a soldier she considered a friend, it was, she says, “the icing on the cake.”
But Havrilla calls herself lucky: the end of her military commitment was in sight. In other cases, soldiers have had to keep fighting alongside, or even under, the person who assaulted them; been ostracized by their units for reporting an attack; or, as another woman says, simply “shoved to the side.” Havrilla and 16 others are now plaintiffs in a class action suit filed Tuesday against Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, alleging that their failure to act amounted to a violation of the plaintiffs’ Constitutional rights. The suit, brought by Washington, D.C. Attorney Susan Burke, and filed in the Eastern Virginia federal court, charges that despite ample evidence of the problem, both Gates and Rumsfeld “ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted; … in which Plaintiffs and other victims were openly subject to retaliation… and ordered to keep quiet.” The plaintiffs, in turn, have been “directly and seriously injured by Defendants’ actions and omissions.” “It’s shocking,” the case’s lead investigator, Keith Rohman, tells The Daily Beast. “And it’s just hard to understand why they’ve held off. Families all over America send their young men and women to serve and they do that at tremendous personal risk and danger. But this is not a risk that those families want to assume.”