Diplomat’s family enslaved and regularly raped houseworker
After a Yemeni woman was enslaved and raped for three months by a US diplomat’s husband, a Virginia federal judge awarded the victim $3.3 million for the abuse that she suffered.
A State Department employee lured the Yemeni woman to move to Japan with her and her husband. After being promised $200 per month for cleaning a home in the US Embassy compound in Tokyo, the woman agreed to come along in December 2008.
Linda and Russell Howard even promised a raise – $300 a month with one day off every week. But instead, the live-in maid was repeatedly raped and forced to work more than 80 hours per week.
“At trial, plaintiff testified that Russell Howard raped her at least four times, and that he forced her to perform oral sex approximately ten times, and that he repeatedly sexually assaulted her,” US District Judge Liam O’Grady was quoted by the Courthouse News. “Plaintiff testified that Linda Howard was complicit in her husband’s sexual abuse, telling [the domestic worker] that she should gratify Russell Howard and make Russell happy.”
The victim said Russell had told her that the couple had hired previous domestic workers whom he had also raped, occasionally in form of a threesome. Those who refused to submit to sexual requests were immediately fired.
The domestic worker also testified that she was denied the right to practice her religion. The Howards monitored everything she did – including phone calls – and refused to let her leave the house alone. The Howards also threatened to have her deported to Ethiopia if she didn’t comply.
“[The victim] was a virtual prisoner in the Tokyo apartment, and she was berated if she took too long to run short errands,” the court reported.
After the domestic worker escaped from the Tokyo home in March 2009, the Howards began a frantic search. Russell flew to Ethiopia to question the woman’s husband about her whereabouts. He even asked the Ethiopian police to help him and tried to file false criminal charges against her.
Meanwhile, the woman reported the abuse to the State Department, who removed Linda from her overseas post and launched an investigation into the incident.
After an investigation into the Howards’ illegal activities, the couple was found guilty of human trafficking, forced labor, involuntary servitude, conspiracy, obstructing law enforcement and unjust enrichment. The Yemeni victim is receiving $3.3 million in compensation for her suffering.