By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com February 17 2011 9:40 AM ET
A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday claims the Department of Defense perpetuates a military culture rife with rape and sexual assault, and that the agency fails to handle the crimes appropriately.
According to The New York Times, “The suit — brought by 2 men and 15 women, both veterans and active-duty service members — specifically claims that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, ‘ran institutions in which perpetrators were promoted and where military personnel openly mocked and flouted the modest Congressionally mandated institutional reforms.’”
“It also says the two defense secretaries failed ‘to take reasonable steps to prevent plaintiffs from being repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and sexually harassed by federal military personnel.’”
The suit filed in federal district court in Virginia seeks monetary damages, but plaintiffs said their priority was systemic reform including more accountability and improved ways of reporting complaints.
According to the Times, the Pentagon said that fighting sexual assault was a "command priority."
"Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement that 'sexual assault is a wider societal problem' and that Mr. Gates was working to ensure that the military was 'doing all it can to prevent and respond to it.'"