FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Brian Purchia April 24, 2012


Plaintiff Cioca is subject of “The Invisible War” documentary

Today, the law firm of Susan Burke filed an appeal in the class action lawsuit Cioca v. Rumsfeld. The appeal, filed in the 4th circuit, argues that the Constitution vests control over the military in civilian hands, namely Congress. When executive branch officials violate Congressional law, and those violations deprive service members of their Constitutional rights, the federal courts can and should intercede. The lawsuit, filed by 28 current and former service members who claim they were sexually assaulted while serving in uniform, was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady on December 9, 2011.

Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders offered this statement in support of the appeal:

“Protect Our Defenders is providing grant support for this effort as well as the lawsuit filed last Friday suing the military’s service academies for failing to protect students from rape and sexual assault. We support these suits because the US military has proven itself unwilling to make the reforms necessary to address the rape and sexual assault epidemic within its ranks.

When Judge O’Grady dismissed the lawsuit saying that rape and sexual assault in the military are simply ‘incident to service,” he put his finger on the heart of the problem. According to the military’s argument, which Judge O’Grady accepted, rape and sexual assault is just an occupational hazard for service members.

Sadly, this mindset dominates the military’s thinking. The problem is so endemic that being raped by co-workers has come to be seen as just part of the job. This is the root of the military’s culture of tolerance for rape, which is preventing the DoD from undertaking real reforms.

The prevalence of rape and sexual assault is recognized at the very highest levels of the military as a crisis of epidemic proportions. Yet instead of instituting the fundamental reforms that many of our allies have, the US military is taking half-measures and incremental steps and calling them “reforms” – even as the problem goes from bad to worse.

By DoD’s own estimate, there are an average of 19,000 rapes or sexual assaults every year in the armed forces, yet only 13.5% are ever reported. Recently, Secretary Panetta announced policy changes that fall far short of fundamental change in current practices. They fail to provide justice or even basic care for victims. Instead, these incremental steps are an attempt to deflect true reform.

After decades of failing to effectively address this problem, it is clear that the military cannot be left alone to find a solution. The only way to ensure that military rapists are prosecuted and convicted is to pursue reform through the judiciary and Congress.

The lax or non-existent prosecution of sex crimes is exactly why we support using the judicial system to find justice for these victims. In a democracy like ours, we affect change by holding institutions legally responsible for their transgressions. In the same way that the courts enforce the law to clean up abuses within corporations or religious institutions, we’re evoking the power of the judiciary to change the military’s behavior.”

About Protect Our Defenders: Protect Our Defenders is a human rights organization. We seek to honor, support and give voice to the brave women and men in uniform who have been sexually assaulted while serving their country, and re-victimized by the military adjudication system – a system that often blames the victim and fails to prosecute the perpetrator. Learn more about Protect Our Defenders at or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at!/ProtectRDfnders.