Lawsuit says military encourages rape

March 6, 2012 at 1:29 PM

WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- A lawsuit filed Tuesday by two former Marines alleges the U.S. military tolerates a culture of rape aimed at female service members.

Two of the plaintiffs, both former officers in the U.S. Marines, say they were sexually assaulted at the Marine Barracks in Washington, NBC News reported. Both women resigned after being accused of alcohol abuse and fraternizing with other officers.

Ariana Klay, who served in Iraq after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, said she was raped by another officer in an attack designed to humiliate her. She said the assault took place at the Barracks.

"An officer senior to me and his civilian friend came to my house on a Saturday morning, uninvited and both of them threatened me with death and raped me," Klay told NBC. "And his reason for doing that, he said, was that I had humiliated him in front of his junior Marines and he wanted to humiliate me back."

Elle Helmer, a former public information officer, said she was raped by her company commander in his Barracks office in 2006.

The Defense Department has recently admitted large numbers of rapes appear to take place in the military. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the number was an "unacceptable" 19,000 a year.

Klay's alleged attacker was acquitted of rape at court-martial and convicted of lesser charges. Helmer said the officer who raped her was not charged and her effort to file a complaint was brushed aside.

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