Worker sues Halliburton over her rape in Iraq

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Florida woman who says she was raped by a colleague while working for Halliburton Co. in Iraq has sued the mega-government contractor claiming the firm did not do enough to protect female employees from such attacks.

The woman, 41, states in her complaint that an intoxicated male coworker obtained a key to her living quarters from an unlocked storage box on the night of the rape.

According to the suit pending in Palm Beach, Fla., federal court, Halliburton failed to screen employees for violent tendencies, did not provide adequate security at the installation, and did not enforce policies barring the possession of alcohol.

“It’s rather shocking, given the billions of dollars Halliburton has been paid for contracts in Iraq, that they did such a shoddy job of protecting this particular woman employee,” said Miami attorney John Spiegel, who filed the suit.

The complaint, which seeks unspecified financial damages, was filed in South Florida because Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc. has a Miami office, he said. Halliburton moved the case to Palm Beach federal court Jan. 25.

Spiegel said he did not think the alleged rapist, who is not named in court papers, had been criminally charged. Military investigators could not say whether a criminal inquiry was ongoing. The woman worked for KBR organizing recreational activities for troops stationed near Ramadi. She is not being named to protect her privacy because she is an alleged rape victim.

KRB employs roughly 50,000 workers in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. A firm spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

In an interview, the woman said she found the door to room wide open after returning from a movie on the night of the rape. When a male voice called out on her walkie-talkie minutes later, she thought it was security coming to check on the situation.

Instead, it was a casual male acquaintance. He smelled of alcohol and could hardly stand straight, the woman said.

In an effort to be kind, she helped the man back to his room where she said he raped her. The incident allegedly occurred Dec. 22, 2005.

“I didn’t even know his last name,” she said. “I just want to ask him, “Why me?”‘

Spiegel said the woman’s attacker indicated he had been in her room earlier that night.

“Keys for those units were kept in an unsecured, unguarded key box and apparently a large number of employees knew where it was,” Spiegel said.

“This dangerous situation clearly began with this gentleman having an opportunity to gain access to her studio, he said. “Imagine a woman checking into a hotel and the hotel allowing pretty much anybody access to room keys. I think the public would be outraged.”

Spiegel said Halliburton also turned a blind eye to alcohol consumption on premises, creating unsafe conditions for the small number of female employees working among hundreds of men.

The woman reported the rape the following morning and was flown to a Baghdad hospital where a rape kit was performed to collect DNA samples.

After taking several weeks medical leave in Florida, she returned to Iraq but left permanently in July due to emotional difficulties. The suit seeks compensation for pain and suffering.

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