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Appeals court won’t act on military members’ sexual assault suit

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) — The 4th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to act after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit in December of 2011 filed by military service members seeking to sue the government over rape and sexual assaults.

“Our decision reflects the judicial deference to Congress and the Executive Branch in matters of military oversight required by the Constitution and our fidelity to the Supreme Court’s consistent refusal to create new implied causes of action in this context,” a three-judge panel wrote in an opinion.

The 25 women and three men who serve or have served in the military that claim to have been raped or sexually assaulted had appealed a lower court’s ruling that upholds the law stating that soldiers, sailors airmen and marines cannot sue the military for injuries.

“The men and women who have come forward in this lawsuit are so brave. They’ve taken a stand and put a face to all of those other survivors,” said Miranda Petersen with Protect our Defenders, a support group for military members, back in May. “Rape and sexual assault is an epidemic in our military right now.”

According to the Department of Defense only a fraction of the 19,000 rapes and sexual assaults in the military each year are reported.

Brian Lewis told CBS 6 News’ Greg McQuade in May that he was raped by a superior in the U.S. Navy while serving on board a ship in 2000. Brian says his rapist was never prosecuted. Brian was discharged in 2001. He is not one of the plaintiff’s in the case.

“It is a very strong act of patriotism to say that the military hurt us intentionally,” said Lewis. “That is the same thing that every survivor feels that they can’t reach out and get help when in fact they can. And that is what essentially what we’re asking the 4th Circuit to do. Is to give us help to hold the military accountable.”