Service Members Sue Sue Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Over Alleged Military Rapes
Nineteen former and current U.S. military service members sued Leon Panetta and former secretaries of defense Friday alleging civil rights violations—stemming from sexual assault accusations they say were not taken seriously by the military. Jesse Ellison reports.
Daniele Hoffman was 17 years old when she met the recruiter for the National Guard who she says eventually attempted to rape her. The child of a single mother, Hoffman says the man “became the fatherly figure in my life.” She signed up for service both to “give back to my country and to make him proud. I wouldn’t have joined if it weren’t for his influence.”
But then, she says, the recruiter began to touch her inappropriately, make physical advances, and eventually attempted to rape her, warning her not to tell anyone by saying, “I gave you everything you have, and I can take it all away.”
Hoffman’s story, and the subsequent harassment and sexual assaults she says she experienced while deployed in Iraq, are detailed in a lawsuit “Daniele Hoffman, et al., v. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, et al.,” filed Friday, morning in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Case No. C12 05049 DMR), on behalf of 19 current and former Army and Air Force service members against the current and former secretaries of defense, alleging ongoing violations of their civil rights. The lawsuit’s second plaintiff, Kole Welsh, a former Army cadet, says he was raped by his staff sergeant, and was infected with HIV as a result of the assault.