Another DADT casualty

Posted on 22 Sep 2009 at 2:59pm

When Joseph Rocha didn’t party with the prostitutes that visited the quarters of the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Support Activity Bahrain where he was stationed, his fellow sailors decided he was gay. And they decided they would make him pay for it.

According to a report by the Associated Press: “An internal Navy investigation into his unit found dozens of examples of hazing and sexual harassment against multiple sailors between 2005 and 2006. The result of the investigation was not clear; a copy of the report released under the Freedom of Information Act has all recommendations blacked out.”

LGBTNews.blogspot.com offers these details: “The abuse included hog-tying Rocha to a chair and pushing him, while bound, into a dog kennel full of feces, as well as humiliating him by repeatedly forcing him to simulate oral sex with another man while on video. Rocha was also pummeled repeatedly while forcibly bent over a desk. Toussaint was implicated in other incidents as well, including handcuffing a sailor to a bed and forcing her to simulate lesbian sex with another woman, also while on video. One of the women later committed suicide.”

It got so bad that Rocha, who had steadfastly refused to discuss his sexual orientation, finally went to his commanding officer and said he was gay in an effort to be discharged under the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and escape the abuse.

And to pile insult on top of injury, that commanding officer — and who, according to some, participated in the hazing, harassment and abuse — has been promoted. Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint has since been promoted to senior chief. Navy officials said Toussaint is currently deployed, that his location could not be revealed and that he is unavailable for comment.

Now Rep. Joe Sestak, a former Navy admiral and a current Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania, has taken an interest in the situation, and has written a letter to Navy Secretary Raymond Mabus demanding information on the situation and on Toussaint. “It would astound me if he was promoted if these allegations are true. What kind of a command climate is that?” Sestak told AP.

It’s good that Sestak is bringing his influence as a congressman to bear and pushing for an investigation. Hopefully it will make a difference. But considering how the military has treated its LGBT servicemembers so far, I am not holding my breath. But Rocha apparently has hope. He has said that he hopes to re-enlist if the DADT policy is repealed and the ban on LGBT servicemembers is lifted.

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