The lawsuit, which names US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld as defendants, has turned the spotlight on 17 sexual assault cases, which the plaintiffs believe military commanders failed to prevent and respond to properly, a Press TV correspondent in Washington reported on Tuesday.
The plaintiffs filed their class-action suit in the federal court on Tuesday, calling for an objective third party to handle sexual assault complaints, and urging the US military to change the way sexual assault cases are handled.
In one incident, a female US army sergeant has spoken about her ordeal in the US military in 2002 when she was raped by fellow service members in Korea — an event that changed her life forever.
Myla Haider, who was working for the Criminal Investigative Division — the military unit assigned to investigate crimes, including rape and assault — sought to call attention to her case, but her efforts failed.
“I knew my career was over because you cannot… our soldiers cannot report a rape in the military when you actually have a successful military career,” Haider told Press TV.
Haider is part of a group of women and men, who have come forward with their individual stories of sexual assault in the military, filing a lawsuit against the federal government.
In another case, Coast Guard veteran Kori Cioca, who was raped in Bay City, in northeastern Michigan in 2005, said the military ignored her reports of being sexually assaulted and she continues to suffer from numbness in her jaw and still has nightmares.
“Again it is awful and I’m scared to death in the military, I tried to speak out, I tried to let my commander know what was happening to me, but they would not help me, my words did not matter at all,” Cioca added.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit. The court case could take several months, perhaps years before it goes to trial.
In December, the American Civil Liberty Union filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon for refusing to release records of sex crimes within the US military.
According to the lawsuit, tens of thousands of US service members have reported some form of sexual assault during the past decade.
In the 2009 fiscal year, a Pentagon report showed an 11 percent increase in the number of sexual assaults in the military over the previous year.
Back in 2003, a survey of female veterans suggested that 30 percent of the women serving had been raped, while a study conducted in the following year on veterans seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder indicated that 71 percent of the women said they had been sexually assaulted or raped while serving.