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General News    H3'ed 3/23/12

Marines, Navy and DOD Sued Again for Rape of Military Women

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The Marine Barracks in Washington, DC is the official residence of the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the home of the Marines who are the ceremonial guard for the President during official US government functions and are the security force for the White House and Camp David. The Marine Band, also located at the Marine Barracks, is known as "The President's Own." The Marine Barracks is the showplace of the Marine Corps with its Silent Drill Team giving weekly military precision performances for the public in the busy summer tourist season.

But, the Marine Barracks has its dark and ugly side. It is also the home of predators and rapists -- officers and enlisted men of the Marine Corps who sexually harass, assault and rape women Marine officers, enlisted women and civilian women who work at the Marine Barracks.

According to information provided at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee Minority Counsel by the Marine Barracks Washington Legal Adviser from 2009 to 2010 three women Marines and two civilian women reported to the Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that they had been raped by male Marines. Two of the women Marines held high visibility jobs at the Marine Barracks and were raped by senior officers.

During the same period, two other woman Marines and two other civilian women reported that had been sexually harassed by Marines at the Marine Barracks.

Second Lawsuit Filed Against Marines, Navy and DOD on Rape in the Military

On March 6, 2012, Attorney Susan Burke filed a federal lawsuit in the United States District Court, Washington, DC on behalf of eight military women -- four Marines and four Navy women, who were raped while in the military. The lawsuit is on behalf of two of the women Marines officers who served at the Marine Barracks and were raped by Marines assigned to the Marine Barracks. The two Marine officers, Lt. Ariana Klay and Lt. Elle Helmer spoke at a press conference announcing the lawsuit, and on national TV shows following the announcement.

This is the second lawsuit filed in a little over a year against the Department of Defense on the issue of rape in the military. The first lawsuit was filed on February 15, 2011 and was brought by 15 women and two men, active-duty military personnel and veterans, and accused the Department of Defense of permitting 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.

On December 9, 2011, U.S. District Court Judge Liam O'Grady ordered dismissal of the case, calling the sexual assault allegations "troubling," but said previous cases and Supreme Court decisions have advised against judicial involvement in cases of military discipline. O'Grady cited the case Gilligan v. Morgan, decided in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court, that "matters of military discipline should be left to the 'political branches directly responsible -- as the judicial branch is not -- to the electoral process.'" O'Grady said "Not even the egregious allegations within the plaintiff's complaint will prevent dismissal."

The new lawsuit names current and former Secretaries of Defense and military chiefs of the US Navy and US Marine Corps as defendants. The lawsuit alleges that, "Although Defendants testified before Congress and elsewhere that they have 'zero tolerance' for rape and sexual assault, their conduct and the facts demonstrate the opposite: they have a high tolerance for sexual predators in their ranks, and 'zero tolerance' for those who report rape, sexual assault and harassment." The lawsuit states that "Defendants have a long-standing pattern of ignoring Congressional mandates designed to ameliorate the Armed Services' dismal record of rape and sexual assault. As but one example, Defendant Panetta continues to violate the law requiring the Department of Defense to establish an incident-specific Sexual Assault Database no later than January 2010." More than two year later, the data base still does not exist. See Government Accountability Office Report GAO 10-405T.

The lawsuit continues that "Rather than being respected and appreciated for reporting crimes and unprofessional conduct, Plaintiffs and others who report are branded 'troublemakers,' endure egregious and blatant retaliation, and are often forced out of military service."

Lieutenant Arian Klay

According to the lawsuit, Lieutenant (Lt) Arian Klay, a Naval Academy graduate, served as a protocol officer for the Marine Barracks. While in that position, she was sexually harassed by a Lieutenant Colonel, a Major and a Captain. She was gang-raped by a Marine officer and his civilian friend, a former Marine. The Marine officer threatened to kill Lt. Klay and told his friend he would show him "what a slut she was" and "humiliate" her. They both raped Lt. Klay.

When she reported the rapes and the harassment that occurred after she reported the rapes, the Marine Corps investigation ruled that she welcomed the harassment because "she wore make-up, regulation-length skirts as a part of her uniform and exercised in running shorts and tank tops."

The Marine Corps did not punish any of those who sexually harassed Lt. Klay; instead, the Marine Corps granted one of her harassers a waiver that permitted him to get a security clearance despite his documented history of hazing and sexual misconduct against not only Lt. Klay but many others. He was selected to be in a nationally televised recruitment commercial while he was still under investigation. According to the lawsuit, the Marine Corps featured Lt. Klay's rapist and another one of her harassers in the Marine calendar.

The Marine Corps finally court-martialed one of Lt. Klay's rapists, but failed to convict him of rape, and instead convicted him only of adultery and indecent language (a common escape by military courts from the rape charge), as the military court ruled that Lt. Klay "consented" to being gang raped despite the evidence that the rapist threatened to kill her.

Lt Klay has attempted suicide because of the rapes and harassment and has been diagnosed with PTSD.

Lt. Elle Helmer

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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