AFRICANGLOBE – An American diplomat who kept her Ethiopian housekeeper in ‘depraved sexual slavery and forced her to work an 80 hour week for just $1 an hour has settled out of court with the woman for 3.3 million.
Linda Howard and her husband Russell were ordered to pay $3.3million in damages in 2012 after the Ethiopian-born maid claimed she was repeatedly raped by Mr. Howard – who has since died.
The housekeeper, identified only as Jane Doe, said Russell Howard repeatedly raped her and forced her to perform oral sex on at least 10 different occasions.
Linda Howard first hired the woman, who was 31 at the time, when she was posted at the US Embassy in Yemen, according to court records.
Russell Howard was only living at the home for the first three weeks of the woman’s employment before leaving for Australia, where he is a citizen.
In the months the woman worked for Linda Howard in Yemen there was no abuse and in 2008 she agreed to move with her employer to Japan, where Mrs Howard had received a new posting.
Only weeks after the woman moved to Japan, Russell Howard, who stayed at home during the day while his wife went to work, began demanding sex, the woman’s lawsuit states.
When she repeatedly refused he ‘abused her brutally’ and told her his previous housekeepers had also had sex with him – and fired those who had refused, according to court papers.
After a few weeks, Russell Howard went into the woman’s room and raped her as he ‘used his right hand to choke and restrain’ her, the original complaint states.
Russell Howard would rape her three more times as well as ‘force to perform oral sex’, according to the lawsuit, even telling her the real reason she was brought to Japan was for ‘sexual services’.
The woman said she was repeatedly threatened with deportation and was also forced to work 80 hours a week, seven days a week, and rarely permitted to leave the house alone – isolating her from the outside world.
Meanwhile, Linda Howard told the housekeeper she should make her husband happy and ‘fulfill his needs’, the complaint states.
Russell Howard also told the woman Linda wanted them to have a threesome and, according to court papers, said the couple once had sex with another maid while she was ‘drunk and passed out’.
After living in a ‘constant state of terror’ for four months, the woman fled on foot in the middle of the night, wearing every piece of clothing she owned.
She found a women’s shelter in Tokyo, which reported the abuse to US Embassy officials in the capital. A few weeks later, Linda Howard was removed from her overseas position.
Months later, as the State Department was investigating the woman’s claims, Russell Howard flew to her home in Ethiopia and searched for her, court papers state.
US judge Liam O’Grady ordered Linda Howard to pay the damages in 2012 after finding the couple liable of trafficking, sexual and forced labor, according to the Herald Sun.
Speaking at the time, he said: ‘Here, the crime, involving sexual assaults, forced labor, and trafficking is particularly depraved.
‘The harm was physical, it involved the intentional disregard for the health and safety of Mrs Doe, it was repeated – involving approximately fourteen instances of forced sexual acts, and the harm was planned with forethought and intentionally inflicted on Mrs Doe.’
The damages included $1,250,000 for the emotional distress caused by sexual servitude and $44,500 for forced labor.
Mrs Howard, who is an American citizen, retired from her State Department position and fled to Melbourne without telling the US courts.
She contested the judgment earlier this year at the Supreme Court of Victoria, claiming she treated her housekeeper like a daughter.
Justice Jack Forrest ruled in Ms Doe’s favor in March and ordered Linda Howard to pay the woman.
He added that Linda Howard could not argue the housekeeper’s claim was fraudulent after remaining silent on the matter for two years and not fighting it in US courts when she had the chance.
By: Anneta Konstantinides and Jenny Awford