The Ethiopian housekeeper worked for the Howards in Sanaa, Yemen, in 2007, when Linda Howard was a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Embassy’s Information Program Center.
By Rachel Weiner (The Washington Post) |
A former U.S. diplomat has for the second time been found liable for enslaving and sexually trafficking an Ethiopian housekeeper while posted at the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.
A jury in federal court in Alexandria, Va., agreed Monday (July 31) that the former envoy, Linda Howard, and her Australian husband, Russell Howard, forced an Ethiopian maid into sexual slavery in 2007, repeatedly raping her. Linda Howard was ordered to pay $3 million in damages to the now 30-year-old woman, identified only as Sarah Roe, who lives in Virginia.
Five years ago the couple were found liable in the same court for trafficking another Ethiopian housekeeper in 2008. They were ordered to pay her $3.3 million. However, the couple had already fled from Arlington, Va., to Australia and contested the judgment there. The case was settled in 2015.
Linda Howard left the State Department in 2013; her husband died in 2012. She denied the new allegations and argued that Roe could not sue for civil damages under a human trafficking law that did not pass until 2008.
According to court filings, the Ethiopian housekeeper Sarah Roe began working for the Howards in Sanaa, Yemen, in 2007, when Linda Howard was a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Embassy’s Information Program Center. Roe was promised a monthly salary of $150 as well as visa help, medical treatment, support for her daughter and the opportunity to follow the family to Linda Howard’s next posting in Germany.
She alleged that she was told she must move in with the family, selling the possessions she had acquired in Yemen, and keep Russell Howard happy while his wife was at work.
Roe claims that she was told to wear a skimpy uniform that Linda Howard sewed herself but refused. Russell Howard took her to a mall and bought lingerie, a thong and two miniskirts, which she said she also refused to wear once she realized that was his intention.
From early on, Roe alleged, both husband and wife would grope her and demand that she have sex with them. Soon, she said, Russell Howard was raping her twice a day, telling her it was part of her job. When she protested, she said, he would hit her and throw things at her and threaten to put her in jail. Linda Howard, in Roe’s account, sometimes joined in. She alleged that Russell Howard dragged her to the hospital so she could be fitted with an IUD against her will.
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