Justice Department Pays Settlement for Merchant Marine Academy Sexual Assault Victim

Justice Department Pays Settlement for Merchant Marine Academy Sexual Assault Victim
Photo:Frank Eltman (AP)

The Justice Department is paying a $1.4 million settlement for a former student who was sexually assaulted while enrolled at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 2016.

According to Politico, the settlement represents the first time a victim of sexual assault at one of the country’s five federal service academies has recovered damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, under which the government recognizes liability for its employees.

“The settlement payment ends a grueling four-year journey for my client,” the victim’s attorneys, Thomas Grasso and David Schneider, said in a statement. “He has shown exceptional courage and perseverance to see the matter through.”

The victim, a member of the school’s men’s soccer team, initially filed a suit in 2018, alleging that he’d been held down and sexually battered by his teammates on a bus trip to Baltimore while he was a freshman. The suit also held that the coaching staff were aware of the abuse. According to a Newsday story from 2018,

The complaint contends that members of the team, often influenced by excessive alcohol, drew sexually offensive pictures on the student’s desk, super-glued his sandals to the floor and threatened to urinate on his physics book if he brought it on soccer team trips.
“The Academy’s men’s soccer team culture was pervasively hostile and abusive, encouraging hazing, humiliation, and subjugation of plebes to the lewd whims of first class soccer players, encouraged, unchecked and unreported by the coaching staff,” the suit states.

This was far from the first time allegations of abuse have been made against the academy. An inspector general investigation found that several players had been assaulted on the team bus, per a “systemic hazing ritual” that was considered a “tradition.” The school has had the highest rate of sexual assault and harassment of any of the federal service academies.

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