WASHINGTON – A lawsuit targeting the Pentagon contains an astonishing anecdote about a retired Sergeant’s experience after being sexually assaulted by a colleague during a deployment to Afghanistan.
The lawsuit, available here (PDF), was filed by 17 military women against Secretaries of Defense Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld in Virginia. It assails “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.”
Sergeant Rebekah Havrilla alleges in the complaint that in 2006, after her military supervisor repeatedly sexually harassed her, she was raped by a colleague she was working with at the time.
“He pulled her into his bed, held her down, and raped her. He also photographed the rape,” it reads. Havrilla reported the incident within a month.
In February 2009, she reported for active duty training and, upon seeing her rapist, went into shock.
“She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain,” the lawsuit reads. “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.”
The complains adds that “SGT Havrilla suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic depression.”
Havrilla’s harrowing story, and the broader lawsuit, sheds light on the ongoing and widely reported problem of sexual assault in the military.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said it was “a command priority” to “ensure all of our service members are safe from abuse” and pledged to commit more resources to the goal.
“Sexual assault is a wider societal problem and Secretary Gates has been working with the service chiefs to make sure the U.S. military is doing all it can to prevent and respond to it,” Morrell told NBC News.
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