New York: Two women who said they were raped while attending US military academies sued military officials on Friday, accusing them of failing to address widespread problems of sexual assault at the elite schools.
In the lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court, the two women said the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and the Army's United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, tolerate sexual assault and discourage victims of attacks from reporting them.
"Both institutions systematically and repeatedly ignore rampant sexual harassment," the lawsuit filed by Leah Marquet, 20, and Anne Kendzior, 22, stated.
"Both institutions have a history of failing to prosecute and punish those students found to have sexually assaulted and raped their fellow students."
In the lawsuit, Marquet, a former West Point cadet, said she was pressured by upperclassmen to get drunk and raped by a fellow student while she was intoxicated.
After she reported an assault, other students taunted her, the lawsuit said, and the school punished her for reporting the incident by forcing her to take out her attacker's trash. She quit West Point after becoming suicidal, the lawsuit said.
Kendzior, who entered the Naval Academy in 2008, said she was raped twice by two different fellow students, both times while she was drunk. Kendzior accused the Naval Academy of forcing her to drop out after she reported the rapes to an academy counsellor.
The suit accused former defence secretary Robert Gates and four other military officials of failing to implement steps to fight sexual assaults at the schools.
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages.
US Navy Commander William Marks, a Naval Academy spokesman, declined comment on the lawsuit itself, but said the academy takes every report of alleged sexual assault "extremely seriously" and that its "sexual assault response and advocacy program is among the strongest in the nation”.
Officials at West Point said they could not comment on pending litigation, but that the school takes sexual harassment issues "very seriously”.
"Every unrestricted report of sexual assault is thoroughly investigated, the results of the investigation are reviewed by legal experts and appropriate action taken," said Lt Col Sherri K Reed, the academy's spokesperson.
Officials at the Pentagon had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.
Last month, eight other women filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington saying they were raped, assaulted or sexually harassed while in the military, and were retaliated against when they complained.
The latest lawsuit was filed less than a week after Defence Secretary Leon Panetta announced new steps to curb thousands of sexual assaults a year within the military.
The case is Karley Leah Marquet v Robert Gates et al, US District Court for the Southern District of New York, No 12-3117.
First Published: Saturday, April 21, 2012, 13:13