Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Keeps Brutalized Soldiers From Speaking Out

Joseph Rocha, former Petty Officer Third Class, was brutalized for more than two years after unit mates at his base in Bahrain first suspected that he was gay. What is more, the US Navy then promoted the supervisor responsible for perpetrating the violence.

These are the findings of a deeply disturbing Youth Radio investigation that uncovered official military records documenting the abuse.

Joseph Rocha worked as part of the Bahrain military Working Dogs Devision. Just six weeks into his 2004 deployment, the abuse began started after he was singled out by his chief master-at-arms, Michael Toussaint, following an incident in which Rocha had refused to have sex with a female prostitute.

Here is Joseph speaking about what happened to Youth Radio:

At just 19 at the start of the alleged abuse, Rocha himself had only started to figure out his sexuality. Following the altercation over the prostitute, members of his troop would ask him “Are you a faggot?” on a number of occasions. The abuse didn’t stop there. Rocha was forced to take part in a humiliating “training video” which another officer, Shaun Hoggan, corroborates.

He attests that Joseph Rocha and another junior sailor were made to go into a classroom and were then forced to “simulate homosexual sex on a couch”. Another pretend scenario was that the men were “discovered” during oral sex by a dog handler in which one man would “wipe their mouth” and the other would quickly “fix their fly”.

Toussaint and other members of the troop forced Rocha to repeat these humiliating displays thirty more times.

Rocha remembers Toussaint telling him that he “needed to be more believable, act more queer, have a higher pitched voice, make the sounds and gestures more realistic”.

Rocha said that he complied with most of Toussaint’s awful requests, feeling that he did not have a choice. He did not report the abuse, but rather became part of a bigger investigation in 2006 when another officer reported Michael Toussaint and the Division.

So why didn’t Rocha report the incident? Because he was afraid that he would be retaliated against, and that he would be discharged according to the military policy of not accepting openly gay service members, dubbed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT).

He was right to be afraid.

Joseph Rocha was formally discharged from the Navy after developing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and admitting that he was gay during the course of the inquiry, feeling that he could no longer continue with the military career he had so wanted and had worked so hard for.

Rocha wasn’t the only victim however. The Youth Radio investigation found a large number of other violations, including an incident where two female workers were apparently handcuffed to a bed and forced to simulate lesbian sex whilst being videotaped. An approximate 93 alleged abuses perpetrated by Touissant and several members of his platoon have been recorded.

Because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Joseph Rocha’s case has been swept aside, with Naval authorities claiming that the incident was dealt with internally and that those responsible were held to account.

Really? Is Michael Touissant enjoying his promotion?

Joseph Rocha’s case, and cases like it, are why DADT must be repealed, and why it should be a priority for the Obama Administration.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is baseless discrimination, and it allows civil and human rights abuses that are perpetrated against lesbian and gay soldiers to continue because they are too afraid to speak up over fears of being discharged. How can we stop those anti-gay attacks when homophobia has been institutionalized?

Sign this Care2 petition to urge for the repeal of DADT now and end this discriminatory and dangerous policy.

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, found through Google Image Search. No Infringement Intended.


lyn L.
l L7 years ago

It;s clear we have a problem. I say gays should have the right to peacefully serve their country in the military. That's the perfect world. People are taught many things on all sides. So what is the common ground that will satisfy the fears of everyone concerned? I don't like anyone being victimized by anyone. Yet this country has a history of violence and it can be heartless. So how do we fix this problem. No one is going to give an inch but we all live here on this planet. How can we reach a solution? These people are americans they belong to all of us. Where is the understanding on both sides? I don't like anyone being made anyones victim on both sides of the fence. Let them serve our country if they want to. In peace.

Leonard M.
Leonard M8 years ago

The story disgusts me. But I'm not surprised at all. It needs to stop and Obama and others need to get on it and stop ignoring the issue. The military is a scam and no to mention, a big waste. I saw 5 years of it. It's all a fascist regime protecting a democracy. We need to follow Germany (Lord knows they learned their lesson)- have everyone enlist to be trained to protect their country, and when they are discharged they can do so w/o being in uniform. Instead, we have this political mess of a waste protecting special interests, oil, making up fake wars, inside jobs (911), genocides, etc...
Leonard R. McCarthy
U.S. Army Veteran

Gloria Puel
Gloria Puel8 years ago

A person's sexual orientation has no bearing whatsoever on his/her ability to serve in the military! Why do we feel we have the right to dictate to others how to live their lives? Only God Almighty has the right to judge. If HE hated LGBT people, WHY DID HE MAKE SO MANY OF THEM? We are all human beings, and all have value. If this is such a free country, why are so many denied their freedom to choose? I am staright, but I will defend to the death another person's right to live as they want to. So long as what they are doing is no threat to me? Cool! Live and enjoy life!
The military needs to step out of the Dark Ages. All of these are Testosterone/Estragen factories, where violence, death, and hatred rules supreme, and the dominent ones prey on the weaker victims! Let's make some changes!

Dragonfly Kid
Dragonfly Kid8 years ago

Okay, now I get it. I must admit I couldn't understand why a military person would want to shout from the rooftops that he or she was gay. But hate crimes, that's another story!

SHANNON R8 years ago


Jennifer C.
Jennifer C8 years ago

These disgusting cowards are not the first, nor are they the last "soldiers" to inflict fear and humiliation on "friend" or "foe". I think each and every one of them should be dishonorably discharged from the military, then charged for criminal activity. They should be sentenced to community services like picking up garbage on the side of the road. Maybe this will humble them enough to be worth the oxygen they breathe.
Abbe A should join them.
Congratulations on becoming an official waste of skin.

Rob and Jay B.
Jay S8 years ago

There are so many ugly stories that just about anyone who has been in the military could tell, but hardly ever do. About cruelty, prostitution, hazing, beatings even murders. Yet, all the news media & everyone else ever talks about is the often made-up shiny image of the wholesome, noble person who joins the military to "serve my country". Bullsh**t! That is a rare person, most join for a free education, because they don't have anything else to do, to travel, have lots of sex with groupies, beer, the har-har male frat party atmosphere, or being able to push people around & kill without punishment - not to mention those who just love guns!

It's time the US joined the developed & civilized world & stopped discriminating against anybody. Obama promised to end this stupid, bigoted practice & has support from many military leaders but he hasn't done it yet. He's been busy, yes, but it only takes a minute for him to sign an executive order ending this practice & ending discrimination in the military (though why anyone would want to be in it is beyond me. I would gladly go to defend my country if it were attacked, but not to invade the world to promote the interests of US corporate interests, as has almost always been the case for US militarism. The US certainly doesn't have a defensive military, but an offensive one costing huge amounts of money that could be used for so many better things than defending the military-industrial complex.)

Joseph W.
Joseph W8 years ago

You're right Abbe A, some people are not cut out for military service. However, being forced to simulate sexual acts which are humiliating and degrading should not be the standard by which one is "drummed out" of the military.
I can only assume form your comments, and I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here, that you did not fully understand the suffering that this young man, and others exposed to the same types of degrading and emotional humiliation, ensured.
If I am mistaken, than clearly, mame', Hannah Arendt was correct - evil is banal.

Velibor S.
Vel S8 years ago

this what happened to this brutalized gay solider in US army is so unfortunately typical.
so, not only is "DADT" unfair, it's never been even respected- by homohaters and heterosexists. homohaters and heterosexists did ask and did make, in the most agressive and harrassing ways, gay soldiers tell, yet they i.e. homohaters and heterosexists got awarded and promoted for it, all the while harrassed and attacked gay soldiers got discharged.if this wasn't sad and sadly true, it'd be funny and unbelievable.

I'm sorry to say, but US Army- STINKS!

Barbara K.
.8 years ago

Near the bottom of the first (long) paragraph the sentence is incorrect and should read, "They're, or they are" . .
Just wanted to get it right--at this hour of the night my brain can't keep up with my thoughts . . or something like that. Sorry!