Lawsuit Alleges Military Schools Disregarded Rape Allegations

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Written By admin at Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Two former students of the elite military and naval academies say they were raped by fellow classmates and then either resigned or were forced to leave because administrators didn’t take their allegations seriously, in a lawsuit filed Friday.

The lawsuit, in which the former superintendents of both the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy are named as defendants, claims the women were raped by upperclassmen while under the influence of alcohol and were later ostracized when they reported the allegations.

Former United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and current Secretaries of Army and Navy are also named as defendants in the lawsuit which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

According to the suit, brought by two women whose cases are not related, “both institutions systematically and repeatedly ignore rampant sexual harassment” and “have a history of failing to prosecute and punish those students found to have sexually assaulted and raped their fellow students.”

One plaintiff claims in the suit that she was accepted into the military academy, known as West Point, in 2010 as a 20-year-old high school graduate. During the second semester of her freshman year, she was allegedly raped by her roommate’s boyfriend, an upperclassmen, over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit says she was given a sports drink spiked with alcohol and was raped while she was “disoriented.” Though she reported the rape to academy administrators, she “did not receive adequate assistance,” according to court papers.

Instead, she was forced to maintain contact with her alleged assailant through routine school activities and she ultimately resigned when she became suicidal and depressed as a result of the alleged assault.

At the Naval Academy, the other plaintiff , 22, was twice raped by different classmates on separate occasions where alcohol was being consumed in 2008, the lawsuit says. On both occasions, she was sleeping off the effects of the drink when she awoke to find the classmates raping her, according to the lawsuit.

When she reported the incidents to a counselor, she was encouraged not to report the assaults to military or civilian law enforcement. She then developed mental health issues which the Naval Academy decided “precluded her from becoming a commissioned officer,” the lawsuit states, forcing her to leave without graduating.

The lawsuit does not specify any monetary damages and demands a jury trial.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense, Cynthia Smith, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it would “inappropriate” comment on pending litigation.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Naval Academy in Maryland, Cmdr. William Marks, also declined to comment on the allegations in the lawsuit.

“The Naval Academy takes every report of potential sexual harassment or assault extremely seriously; every unrestricted report of sexual assault is thoroughly investigated, the results of the investigation are reviewed by legal experts, and appropriate action taken whenever the evidence allows us to do so,” he said.

A spokesman for the Military Academy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Representatives of Gates could not immediately be reached for comment.

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