The Navy is forcing the retirement of
the chief petty officer charged with allegations of degrading gay and
lesbian sailors under his command in Bahrain, The Associated Press
Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint
will lose his current position and forced to retire, the Navy
announced Wednesday. His retirement pay could also be significantly
The Navy's reopening of its
investigation into the allegations of abuse was prompted by a letter
addressed to the Secretary of the Navy by Pennsylvania Representative
Joe Sestak last month. Sestak requested an inquiry into the abuse of
Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Christopher Rocha, who served under
Rocha was discharged from the Navy in
2007 after he violated the military's ban on openly gay service,
known as “don't ask, don't tell,” and came out to his commanding
officer after suffering two years of abuse from shipmates while on
duty on the island of Bahrain between 2004 and 2006.
The former sailor alleges service
members engaged in a two-year pattern of abuse against him after they
began to suspect he is gay. “I was hog-tied to a chair, rolled
around the base, left in a dog kennel that had feces spread in it,”
Rocha told Youth Radio.
Rocha was a member of the Bahrain
Military Working Dogs Division, also known as “The Kennel,” a
special division devoted to training bomb-sniffing dogs.
The atmosphere on the island base was
“degrading” to gay men and lesbians, he says.
“The fact that I was starting to
figure out that I was a homosexual, it was the most degrading thing
I've ever experienced in my life,” Rocha said.
The hazing, taunting, and bullying
began soon after Rocha declined to take a female prostitute in 2004.
Because he feared losing his job, Rocha says he did not report the
abuse, including violence he suffered at the hands of Toussaint.
Documents acquired by Youth Radio via a
Freedom of Information Act request show that Rocha was not alone in
his suffering. A summary of an independent investigation concluded
in 2007 lists 93 abusive incidents, including forcing two female
sailors to simulate lesbian sex on video. One of the women has since
The military's ban on open service by
gay men and lesbians is being blamed for the aggressive atmosphere.
“The Navy's actions in reviewing
Joseph Rocha's case show how important accountability is in the chain
of command,” said Dr. Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a
think tank that advocates for repeal of “don't ask, don't tell,”
in a statement.
“The suffering of Rocha and others
was exacerbated by the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy since it
hampers the ability of abuse victims to hold leaders and perpetrators
accountable. The results undermine discipline and order in the
entire unit, not just gays and lesbians,” Belkin added.