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Gay former sailor says hazing led to PTSD

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 5, 2009

WASHINGTON — Former Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha says he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after being physically and sexually abused by fellow sailors over a two-year period. But after a Navy investigation into widespread hazing allegations within the unit, the only sailor discharged was Rocha, because he also admitted that he is gay.

According to documents released by Youth Radio this week, Navy investigators found dozens of hazing incidents over a two-year span at the Military Working Dog unit in Naval Support Activity-Bahrain. At one point, the documents show, Rocha was hog-tied, fed dog food and tossed into a dog kennel full of feces. Commanders also openly questioned his sexuality and forced him to simulate oral sex on other men.

Following the investigation, Rocha sought treatment for PTSD and later admitted he is gay, the news outlet reported. Shortly thereafter, he was discharged under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prohibits homosexual troops from serving openly in the ranks.

However, the commander in charge of the unit at the time of the hazing did not lose his job, and was recently promoted to senior chief, documents show.

None of the alleged abusers was punished, according to the report.

The news organization received heavily redacted copies of the Navy’s investigation and findings into the incident, but naval officials at the Pentagon said they could not comment on details of the case. Calls to Navy Region Europe officials, who oversaw the Bahrain unit, were not returned.

According to the reports, commanders routinely abused and insulted subordinate sailors from 2004 to 2006, until investigators began looking into the charges. They found at least 93 incidents of abuse, but naval officials would not comment on any disciplinary action.

In several cases, male sailors were forced to simulate gay sex acts on other men, both during public training sessions and as punishment for mistakes. In one instance, two women in the division were handcuffed to a bed and forced to imitate lesbian sex while other sailors videotaped them.

In a statement Thursday, Aaron Belkin, director of the University of California’s Palm Center — which opposes the “don’t ask” law — blasted the Navy over the incident.

“It is very hard for an organization to get rid of abuse as long as discrimination remains official policy,” he said.


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