Protect Our Defenders Supports Lawsuit Against US Military For Failure to Protect Cadets at Service Academies from Rape or Sexual Assault


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Brian Purchia April 20, 2012 brian@protectourdefenders.com

Lawsuit names former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others, for allowing rampant sexual harassment and assault at service academies

Washington, DC – Protect Our Defenders is collaborating with Susan Burke and her firm to advance a new lawsuit filed today that accuses two US military service academies, West Point and the Naval Academy, of systemically and repeatedly ignoring sexual harassment and rape, and failing to prosecute cadets and midshipmen who raped their fellow students.

The cases of the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit, 20-year-old plaintiff Karley Leah Marquet, a former cadet at the United States Military Academy, and 22-year-old Anne Elisabeth Kendzior, a former cadet at the United States Naval Academy have disturbing similarities. Both involve intensive peer pressure to consume alcohol. And neither has yet to result in any actions taken against the alleged perpetrators.

This follows a pattern of the academies’ failure in this regard, as disclosed in the 2011 DOD annual report on “ Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies.” The report (PDF) finds West Point out of compliance with the DOD’s sexual assault prevention policy and that the academies in general have failed to implement and enforce DOD policy.

Karley Marquet alleges that she was raped the second semester of her freshman year by a West Point upperclassman. She reported the alleged rape to the West Point Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) but, typical of similar cases, received inadequate assistance. Instead, she was forced each day to take out the trash from her rapist’s room. Recognizing no help was going to be forthcoming, Marquet resigned from West Point.

Anne Kendzior alleges that she was raped on two occasions by different classmates. After trying but failing to handle the after-effects of the rapes on her own, Kendzior confided in her Academy counselor, who discouraged her from making a report. Eventually, Kendzior became suicidal and she was forced to leave the Academy without being permitted to graduate.

Although the investigations are continuing, Marquet’s perpetrator has not been brought to justice. In Kendzior’s case, the investigations are also ongoing and both alleged perpetrators were permitted to graduate and are currently serving as Naval officers.

Nancy Parrish, President of Protect Our Defenders, called the issue of rape in the military a serious human rights issue, saying “In a democracy like ours, we affect change by holding institutions of power legally responsible for their transgressions. In the same way that the courts enforce the law to clean up abuses within religious and educational institutions, we’re using the power of the judicial system to change the military’s behavior.”

Susan Burke, whose law firm is nationally recognized for its work on behalf of US armed forces members who have been raped or sexually assaulted, said “It is abundantly clear that to ensure military rapists are prosecuted and convicted, reform of the military justice system must come from the other two branches of government, Congress and the Judiciary.” Burke continued, citing policy changes announced by Secretary of Defense Panetta on April 16, “Secretary Panetta’s plans fall far short of effective reform, and merely mimic DOD’s prior responses to scandals such as Tailhook and Aberdeen. After decades of DoD inaction on military rape issue, the time for unenforceable promises must end.”

According to the December 2011 Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, there were 65 reports of sexual assault in the academies in FY2010, up from 41 reports in 2009. But the report admits that sexual assaults are dramatically under-reported with the reported number representing less than 10% of the actual cases. And most tellingly, the report notes that of the many defendants accused in those 65 cases only one has been court-martialed.

Responding to these so-called reforms, Parrish criticized the military’s record of convictions, saying, “The lax to non-existent prosecution of these crimes is exactly why we support using the judicial system to force the necessary reforms, the military has been so resistant to. Both plaintiffs did their duty. They chose to serve America and to report the perpetrators, because they knew it was the right thing to do. But instead of justice, they got punished and their attackers have not been brought to justice.”

In addition to providing financial support for this lawsuit, Protect Our Defenders has provided Susan Burke and her firm previous support and is committed to continuing to do so in the future. Burke said of Protect Our Defenders, “We share the same goal: to get the military to prosecute and incarcerate rapists rather than persecute those brave enough to report rapes and sexual assaults. I’m so proud to partner with them because their important work honors, supports and gives voice to the brave servicemembers who have been raped.”

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 www.protectourdefenders.com or on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter.

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