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Lawsuit: Military allowed rape

Feb. 15, 2011 at 7:44 PM

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A lawsuit filed Tuesday by women who are serving or have served in the U.S. military charges their superiors ignored or belittled their complaints of sexual assault.

In court papers, the women describe rapes in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan and gang rapes, NBC News reports. One woman, a naval aviator, said she was raped by two airmen two months ago.

Lawyer Susan Burke filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va.

The lawsuit names former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his successor, Robert Gates, charging that both have tried to minimize the problem of sexual assault. The plaintiffs include two women who work for the Coast Guard in addition to the 14 in the services governed by the Defense Department.

Mary Gallagher, who was deployed to Iraq in 2009 as a sergeant in the Air National Guard, told NBC she was raped in a barracks bathroom by a fellow sergeant.

"I thought he was going to kill me that night," Gallagher told NBC. "I felt completely isolated and alone and really scared. Here I was, in the middle of a foreign country in the middle of a war."

She said her commanding officer, telling her "this stuff happens," simply reassigned the man who had assaulted her.

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