A congressman is asking for detailed information about a sailor who
was abused by his cohorts, one of whom was promoted despite his
superiors' knowledge of the abuse. U.S. representative Joe
Sestak sent a letter on September 11 to Navy secretary Raymond Mabus asking
for an investigation into Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha's
"Since 2006, Joseph Rocha has developed symptoms of PTSD and was
discharged from the Navy under 10 U.S.C. Section 654, commonly referred
to as 'don't ask, don't tell,'" Sestak wrote. "Prior to his time in Bahrain, Petty
Officer Rocha had graduated at the top of his military class and
served his country honorably as a military police officer. He received
favorable performance evaluations throughout his career."
Rocha was assigned to a military canine unit in Bahrain. It was revealed earlier this month that he was abused by unit mates, who allegedly forced him into a dog kennel full of feces while bound to a chair. Rocha said he was also forced to simulate oral sex with a man more than 30 times.
Sestak, a former admiral, said his inquiry for more information on Rocha's case is because of the danger such actions put on other military personnel.
"When a man or woman puts on a military uniform, he or she
immediately assumes a commonality of purpose with all fellow service
members," he wrote. "Failing to treat everyone with the same level of
dignity and allowing acts of assault or battery to go unaddressed,
would be counter to not only our national values, but to the concept of
brotherhood and sisterhood that I learned is so essential to -- and
such a key part of -- the spirit of our armed forces."
the letter picked up steam in the media, the Navy announced it was looking
into Rocha's case. A spokesman told the Associated Press on Tuesday
that the Chief Petty Officer's actions "do not reflect who we are as a
The abuse began six weeks into Rocha deployment in 2004
when he was ostracized for not being interested in prostitutes. He did
not report the abuse until 2006 for fear of retaliation and discharge
under the military's ban on openly gay service members.
Rocha was discharged from the Navy when he reported the abuse to his commanding officer and admitted that he is gay.
Frank, senior research fellow at the Palm Center, a think tank that
studies gender and sexuality in the military, said Rocha's case
illustrates how the ban on gay and lesbian service members puts those
personnel in greater danger.
"Any law or policy that singles
out one group as a threat to the greater good is a green light to treat
that group in demoralizing and dangerous ways," said Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America.
"The current policy is especially insidious because it allows the group
to serve but casts it as a menace. It's one thing to say, 'You're too
old, so you're not eligible.' But this policy says 'Gays are eligible,
they're serving with you, but by the way, they're an unacceptable risk
to your mission.' It's no wonder they're sometimes a punching bag."