Judge won't dismiss sex claims against military academy

AP News
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Posted: Apr 22, 2015 8:14 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A former cadet can move forward with her lawsuit claiming she was forced to drop out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point five years ago because of rampant sexual hostility that included male cadets marching through campus shouting offensive lyrics boasting of their sexual prowess, a judge says.

The woman, identified in court papers as Jane Doe, said the environment led her to be raped in 2010 by a fellow cadet after both of them broke school rules, leaving their rooms after taps to meet and drink alcohol.

The woman, who resigned after two years at West Point, claimed in her 2013 equal-protection lawsuit that West Point administrators and faculty openly joked with male cadets about having sex with female cadets, lamented the lack of "sexual opportunities" at the school and advised male cadets to "seize any chance to have sex."

The lawsuit noted that male cadets marched through campus during "team building" exercises, shouting sexually offensive lyrics in earshot of faculty and administrators.

In court papers, government lawyers argued that the Supreme Court has made clear in previous cases that cadets are members of the military and the courts cannot interfere with it or it would leave commanding officers subject to civilian court review of the wisdom of a wide range of military and disciplinary decisions.

In his April 13 ruling, U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein wrote that it was not possible to toss out the lawsuit based on the information so far.

"All she asks for is the dignity of equality — that there be no special rules, or practices, at West Point that favor male cadets over female cadets, or vice-versa, or that tend to degrade one sex as a means to raise or motivate another," he wrote.

Spokespeople for West Point and the government attorneys representing the school declined comment.

Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., the superintendent at West Point, has previously called combating sexual harassment and assault a top priority at the school, where women made up 16 percent of the enrollment in 2014.