Today, over a dozen women and two men have sued the Pentagon for standing by, or "turning a blind eye," as they were raped and assaulted.
Those assaults on servicewomen took place in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in the U.S. as recently as two months ago, often without any real repercussions to the perpetrator. The lawsuit also names Defense Secretaries Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld for failing to enforce existing protections for women in the military, or further ensure their safety.
Among the chilling stories: Rebecca Havrilla was the only female member of a bomb squad in Afghanistan. After being constantly sexually harassed by her supervisor, she said a fellow sergeant raped her while another sergeant took photographs. The photos ended up on a website for "hot military girls."
Also horrifying is the story of Sarah Albertson, who was raped by a man with a higher rank who climbed into bed with her. The army refused to reassign him while the case was pending, Albertson gained weight from depression, and then the army forced her to undergo a weight-loss program — overseen by her rapist. "He was in charge of judging my body," she told Today.
The AP interviewed another servicemember involved in the case. She was raped and beaten while serving in the Coast Guard (which is under the oversight of Homeland Security), and she tells her heartbreaking story in the video above.
Women in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to die in the line of duty, a grim statistic cited in the Today segment on the case today.
How did military brass enable these rapists and protect them from punishment? According to NBC News, Rumsfeld "delayed reporting members to a commission mandated by Congress to investigate the military's handling of sexual assault cases and resisted congressional oversight of the issue." And Gates has allowed "nonjudicial punishments" for rapists and missed a deadline to create a central database for sexual assaults in the military.
The executive director of the Service Women's Action Network told the AP, "A lawsuit like this is needed because change cannot happen on the inside. DoD has had literally decades, perhaps more, to change the culture within the military. They've proven that they can't, and even the minor changes they've made the last few years are so superficial."
Update: Two men are also part of the lawsuit, which was left out of initial reports. Our apologies for the omission.