Wednesday, May 25, 2016
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) — The husband of a U.S. diplomat repeatedly raped a maid in Yemen, and the diplomat fled from the United States after she was ordered to pay $3 million to another woman her husband had raped, an Ethiopian woman claims in court.
Sarah Roe sued Linda Howard and the estate of her late husband Russell Howard on Friday in Federal Court.
Roe, now a resident of Washington, D.C., says the Department of Homeland Security granted her a T-visa in February this year, a visa "which is granted to an individual who can demonstrate that she "is or has been a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons."
Roe went to Sana'a, Yemen in 2003, when she was 17, and got a job with a food services subcontractor at the U.S. Embassy. Two years later, she says, she met Linda Howard, a foreign service officer with the State Department's Information Program Center, and Howard's husband.
Eventually, the Howards offered her a live-in housekeeping position for $150 a month, with Fridays off. It was less than she had earned at a job from which she had been laid off, but she took it because she was "desperate," and had to support her family in Ethiopia, she says.
Plus, the Howards promised they would pay to renew her visa, help her treat an eye injury, take her to Germany, and most importantly, help take care of her family, she says.
"The Howards briefly showed Ms. Roe a contract, but she did not understand the document." Mrs. Howard told Roe she had to "make Russell happy," and gave her a homemade "uniform" — a "skimpy miniskirt," and he later bought her lingerie, according to the complaint.
Soon after she arrived at the Howards' home, Russell Howard began sexually her, Roe says. "He grabbed her breasts and bottom and demanded that she no longer wear a bra in the home. Linda Howard likewise touched Ms. Roe's breasts and demanded that she engage in sexual activities with the couple," according to the complaint. "Ms. Roe begged the Howards to stop and refused their advances, but they ignored her. Russell Howard said, 'Don't worry, you will get used to it,' and followed Ms. Roe around the house. This happened constantly. Ms. Roe was terrified."
One day, Russell Howard "came into Ms. Roe's room after lunch completely naked," she says. "Ms. Roe was shocked and ran to a comer. Russell Howard violently forced himself on her, tearing off her clothes and raping her. Ms. Roe could not defend herself as Russell Howard overpowered her attempts to resist. After this rape, Ms. Roe was in shock. She did not know what to do. Ms. Roe felt like a slave."
Roe says that "a pattern soon developed," with Russell Howard entering her room each day around 9 a.m. to rape her, and again about 3 p.m. to rape her again.
"Russell said the rapes were a part of her job," Roe says.
Howard forced her to get an IUD, and repeatedly threatened to put her in Yemeni prison if she told anyone about her situation, she says. She says the Howards "left Yemen in December 2008, having trafficked another young Ethiopian woman to serve as a sex slave."
The Daily Mail, in London, reported on Sept. 7, 2015 that Linda Howard, "(a) former U.S. diplomat who fled to Australia after being accused of the cruel slavery and sexual abuse of her African housekeeper is believed to have paid a seven-figure settlement."
The Howards were ordered to pay $3.3 million to that Ethiopian-born woman in 2012, according to the Daily Mail. The story told by that Jane Doe — who is not the same woman, according to their ages — closely resembles the story Roe tells in her recent lawsuit.
Linda Howard quit her job at the State Department, fled from the 2012 judgment in Virginia Federal Court and went to Australia without telling the court, according to the Daily Mail. She contested the judgment in Australia last year and lost, and was ordered to pay, according to the British newspaper.
Roe seeks punitive damages for forced labor, human trafficking, sex trafficking, and conspiracy.
She is represented by M. Carter Delorme with Jones Day in Washington, D.C.