Military rape victims sue Leon Panetta claiming Department of Defense ‘failed to punish dozens of sexual assaults’

  • 20 men and women  claimed they were harassed, raped, or assaulted
  • Further  allege they suffered retaliation when they reported alleged  crimes

By Associated Press

PUBLISHED:22:42 EST, 28  September 2012| UPDATED:00:56 EST, 29 September 201

A lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court  in San Francisco alleging current and former members of the U.S. military were  sexually assaulted while serving.

The 20 women and men filing the lawsuit  against Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other top officials claim they  were harassed, raped or assaulted and suffered retaliation when they reported  the incidents.

The lawsuit accuses the leadership of the  U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force of failing to prosecute and properly investigate  claims of sexual assault.

Daniele Hoffman, who was a victim of sexual abuse while serving in the military, speaks at a press conference in San Francisco 

Daniele Hoffman, who was a victim of sexual abuse while  serving in the military, speaks at a press conference in San Francisco

 

A lawsuit was filed Friday in San Francisco federal court on behalf of a group of military veterans who allege they were sexually assaulted during their serviceKole Welsh

Hoffman and Kole Welsh spoke at the conference; a  lawsuit was filed Friday in San Francisco federal court on behalf of a group of  military veterans who allege they were assaulted during their  service

Susan Burke, the lead lawyer representing the  plaintiffs, has filed four other lawsuits alleging assaults in military  branches.

A federal judge in Virginia in December  tossed out a similar suit. Although the judge called the allegations troubling,  he said the military disciplinary system should handle the cases.

Cynthia Smith, a Department of Defense  spokeswoman, declined to discuss the latest lawsuit.

In March, after several service members filed  a suit against the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, funding was increased for  investigators and judge advocates to receive training in sexual assault cases.

Kole Welsh, who was a victim of sexual abuse while serving in the military, speaks at the conference 

Kole Welsh, who was a victim of sexual abuse while  serving in the military, speaks at the conference

 

In addition, a two-star general was appointed  to direct a sexual assault response and prevention office.

The Pentagon is assembling a data system to  track reports of sexual assault and is reviewing how commanding officers are  trained in preventing and responding to rape cases.

Smith said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta  has ordered the department to take additional steps, including the creation of a  special victims unit.

he order was made the same week the Army  charged Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair with sexual misconduct while serving in  Afghanistan.

It was not clear if Sinclair had an attorney,  and a phone listing found for him was disconnected.

Nonetheless, the lawsuit filed Friday said  not enough was being done about the issue.

‘The U.S. Army and Air Force leadership has a  pattern and practice of ignoring and failing to prosecute rapes and sexual  assaults,’ the lawsuit states

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2210348/Military-members-SUE-Department-Defense-sexually-assaulted-serving.html#ixzz27w0VvsC4 Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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