Several women are suing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates because of “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.”
The lawsuit can be read here (PDF).
A reader pointed out one particular story about a military chaplain that warrants special attention on this site. Read the disturbing story of what happened to Sergeant Rebekah Havrilla… and the awful way it was handled by the chaplain:
SGT Havrilla deployed to Afghanistan in 2006. Her supervisor sexually harassed her, stating on one occasion that he “really wanted to fuck [her] right now.” On another occasion, as SGT Havrilla’s peers watched, he walked up behind SGT Havrilla, grabbed her waist and kissed and bit the back of her neck. He began to slap her bottom whenever he passed by. He also belittled and mocked SGT Havrilla [SGT] Havrilla suffered from the harassment to such a degree that she sought medical assistance.
Subsequently, SGT Havrilla worked with an individual from a canine unit. That same colleague raped her. He pulled her into his bed, held her down, and raped her. He also photographed the rape.
SGT Havrilla reported the sexual harassment and rape within approximately one month, under the military’s restricted reporting policy.
In February of 2009 SGT Havrilla reported for four weeks of active duty training. During this training, she saw her rapist in the shopette on Fort Leonard Wood. Upon seeing her rapist, SGT Havrilla went into shock. She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain. When SGT Havrilla met with the military chaplain, he told her that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and recommended that she attend church more frequently.
SGT Havrilla suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression.
What the hell…
They just let this slide?! Rumsfeld and Gates owe every woman in the military an explanation for how this was handled. They also need to let us know what actions they’re taking to make sure incidents like these will not be ignored.
This sort of accusation that Havrilla deserved her mistreatment because it was “God’s will” is just insult added to injury — an untrue statement that somehow deflects blame away from her attackers.
The Pentagon is not commenting on the lawsuit but Kaye Whitley, who runs the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, says, “Sexual assault has no place in our armed forces and that’s why the department is committed to programs that focus on preventing the crime from ever occurring and programs that support the victims of sexual assault.”
I’ll believe that when I hear what actions the military is taking to prevent chaplains like this from counseling anyone.
There are unfortunately many more stories like this in the lawsuit. I’m glad it’s filed and I hope it gets the attention it deserves.
(Thanks to Beth for the link)