Whistleblower

Brutal Navy Hazing Rituals Probed

The Navy's dirtiest hazing rituals are out in the open—but are they the actions of a single "rogue unit," or a pattern of abuse? Following news that female sailor Jennifer Valdivia committed suicide amid a hazing scandal with the Navy's Bahrain dog-handling unit, Joseph Rocha, a member from the same unit, penned a shocking Washington Post column outlining his own terrorized experience, including being forced to simulate oral sex on his superiors and being locked in feces-filled dog kennels for hours on end. Rocha, who is gay and came out after his service, blames Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for promoting a culture that glosses over sexual abuses: “You can’t sexually assault someone who doesn’t exist.” Now, CNN reports that the Valdivia and Rocha weren’t alone: An internal Navy report documented more than 90 hazing abuses, including sailors "hog-tied," "force-fed liver dog treats," and "duct-taped to a chair, rolled outside, and then left in a dog kennel until released." CNN found sailors who confirmed Rocha's report of abuses from commanding officer Michael Toussaint (Valdivia was Toussaint's second-in-command) who promoted an "atmosphere of fear" that included forcing sailors to simulate oral sex on their superiors and making a video of a "cat fight" between several scantily clad female sailors. Toussaint has since been promoted, and Rocha says he still "loves the Navy," arguing that his experience in Bahrain "is not a representation of the military." Sen. Joe Sestak (D-PA)—himself a Navy veteran—has condemned the “rogue unit” and demanded recourse.