US Navy officer forced to resign over gay hazing

Jessica Geen October 22, 2009
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An officer formerly in charge of a US Navy dog unit in Bahrain has been forced to retire after an investigation into the alleged abuse of a gay officer and others at the base.

Former chief petty officer Michael Toussaint has been forced to leave his post. He has been sent a letter of censure and his pension may be downgraded.

An investigation into hazing at the base in Bahrain between 2004 and 2006 found almost 100 alleged incidents of abuse.

Joseph Rocha, a gay sailor who refused to sleep with a female prostitute, suffered two years of harassment and bullying, according to official Navy documents.

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.

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.

The investigation was ordered by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead.

Navy spokesperson Commander Elissa Smith told “After reviewing the investigation and the CNIC report, Admiral Roughead found the incidents were not in keeping with Navy values and standards and violated Navy’s long standing prohibition against hazing.”

Toussaint who is now a senior chief petty officer, is to perform administrative duties until his retirement in January. The letter of censure will become a permanent part of his military record.

US representative Joe Sestak, a Philadelphia Democrat and retired three-star admiral, had questioned why Toussaint was promoted following the allegations.

Sestak also linked the death of one officer to the abuse cases. Petty officer first class Jennifer Valdivia took over Toussaint’s place in the Bahrain unit. She committed suicide during the investigation, leaving a message on her MySpace page saying she was sick of being blamed for the actions of others.

Rocha, 23, is now a student at University of San Diego. He said he was “disappointed” that Toussaint would not be courtmartialled but commended Admiral Roughead and the Secretary of the Navy for investigating the issue.

More: Americas

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