Investigation: Sexual Misconduct Cover-up at Coast Guard Academy

Attorney Christine Dunn, a partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp, a nationally recognized civil rights law firm, and Ryan Melogy of Maritime Legal Solutions PLLC have teamed up to represent survivors of sexual violence at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (“USCGA”). We currently represent multiple survivors who endured sexual misconduct as USCGA cadets. We are actively seeking to speak with additional survivors about their potential civil claims stemming from the USCGA’s years-long cover-up of sexual misconduct at the Academy’s New London, Conn., campus.

Coast Guard Academy Engaged in Cover-up

As first reported by CNN and now the subject of a Congressional inquiry, the USCGA at its highest ranks of leadership engaged for years in an orchestrated cover-up of sexual misconduct at the Academy, systematically silencing survivors and failing to properly handle their claims. Instead, the Coast Guard chose to prioritize its reputation over transparency, accountability and, most of all, the safety of cadets. In so doing, the Coast Guard subjected countless other cadets to preventable harm.

Despite conducting internal investigations into the sexual misconduct at the USCGA, including one dubbed “Operation Fouled Anchor,” the Coast Guard deliberately kept hidden the investigations’ findings. Specifically, the investigations found that sexual misconduct was routinely mishandled by USCGA leadership and, at times, actively concealed. Instead of disclosing the findings of the internal investigations,  USCGA leaders, including former Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz, chose to conceal the findings. These ranged from forcible kissing to rape. Perpetrators rarely faced significant punishment, if they were investigated at all, and many continued to ascend the Coast Guard ranks into high-ranking leadership positions.

Survivors, meanwhile, frequently faced blame by the USCGA leaders purportedly investigating their claims. According to CNN, for example, Operation Fouled Anchor found that one female cadet who reported being raped by a classmate was disciplined herself for “engaging in lewd acts,” after a USCGA official determined that the victim did not protest her assailant’s advances strongly enough.

On Monday, June 10, Shannon Norenberg, the USCGA’s Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), resigned from her position and turned whistleblower against her former bosses. In a public comment, Norenberg revealed that in 2019, she had been unwittingly enlisted in the USCGA’s cover-up through an “apology tour” of sexual assault victims in which the victims were falsely told that Congress was aware of the findings in Operation Fouled Anchor.

Civil Liability for Failing to Protect Victims

Those who serve our country deserve accountability from their leadership. If you endured sexual violence while serving as a cadet at the USCGA, even if you didn’t report the incident at the time, you have legal rights. Through the civil justice system, institutions can be held civilly liable for monetary damages for failing to take reasonable measures to protect victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse from the physical harm and trauma they suffered. This includes branches of the U.S. military.

As Co-Chair of the Sexual Violence, Title IX, and Victims’ Rights Practice Group at Sanford Heisler Sharp, Christine Dunn is an experienced, trauma-informed plaintiffs’ attorney for survivors of military sexual assault.

In 2022, Christine and Ryan Melogy of Maritime Legal Solutions PLLC successfully represented the civil claims of two female cadets from the U.S. Merchant Marines who were sexually assaulted and harassed while serving aboard a commercial ship. Christine has also represented servicemember-survivors from the United States Army, Marines, and Navy.

Christine has helped survivors of military sexual assault find a measure of healing through the civil justice system. Her clients currently include more than a dozen victims of sexual assault by a U.S. Army doctor who now faces criminal charges for his abuse of patients; a civilian engineer for the Merchant Marines who was allegedly raped by a captain of the U.S. Navy; and a teen-aged victim of alleged grooming and sexual abuse by a recruiter for the U.S. Marines.

To contact Christine, please email [email protected].

 

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