A gay US navy sailor who refused to sleep with a female prostitute suffered two years of harassment and bullying, according to official Navy documents.
The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by Youth Radio, say that former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha was physically and sexually abused by his fellow sailors at a military dog base in Bahrain.
His abuse was one of dozens of alleged cases discovered by a Navy investigation.
According to the documents, Rocha was hog-tied, forced to eat dog food and thrown into a kennel of dog faeces. He was also allegedly forced to simulate oral sex on other men.
The alleged abuse continued until 2006 but Rocha did not report it, fearing he would be discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, the law that bans openly gay personnel serving in the US military.
After returning to the US, Rocha developed post-traumatic stress disorder. After admitting to his superiors he was gay, he was discharged under the military gay ban law.
Despite widespread allegations of similar abuse, he is the only member of the unit to be discharged as yet.
Since the investigation began, the Navy has promoted Chief Michael Toussaint, who was the petty officer in charge of the unit, to the rank of Senior Chief. According to official documents, most of the abuse was perpetrated or presided over by him.
At least 93 other incidents of abuse were alleged. In one case, male officers were said to have been forced to simulate gay sex acts, as part of ‘training sessions’ and also as punishment. In another alleged incident, two female sailors were handcuffed to a bed and forced to simulate lesbian sex while male sailors filmed them.
Rocha said visiting prostitutes was common in the unit and his refusal to join in revealed he was gay.
He said he was preparing to testify against his alleged accusers but was then told by a Navy official the case had been dropped.
In a statement given to Youth Radio, he said: “I wish I could still be serving in our military, but after three and a half years in the Navy, including two and a half years stationed in the Middle East, I resigned because I refused to be punished any longer for who I am.”
Navy Region Europe officials, who oversaw the Bahrain unit, have not returned calls for comment, while the Pentagon said they could not comment on details of the case.
The case has been condemned by the Palm Center, the University of California, Santa Barbara institute which opposes the military gay ban.
In a statement, Palm Center director Aaron Belkin said: “It is very hard for an organisation to get rid of abuse as long as discrimination remains official policy.”
The official Navy documents can be viewed here