Navy to Re-Investigate Joseph Rocha Brutalization Case

Following a Youth Radio investigation into claims that former Petty Officer Third Class Joseph Rocha was brutalized at his unit base in Bahrain between 2005 and 2007 because his commander suspected that he was gay (see our original coverage by clicking here), the Navy have relaunched an investigation into the incident backed by Pennsylvanian congressman Joe Sestak.

In a letter to the Secretary of the Navy Rep. Sestak (D-Pa) criticized the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy the military enforces to ban openly gay service personnel and which kept Rocha from initially speaking out about the abuse he suffered, adding yet more pressure for a repeal.

In the letter, Sestak wrote:

“Without a question, it heightens and makes more salient this issue… it highlights the loss of another good individual.”

The congressman then went on to say:

“During my 31 years in the military, I served alongside and in command of men and women of all backgrounds, beliefs, and identities who fought valiantly and selflessly… when a man or woman puts on a military uniform, he or she immediately assumes a commonality of purpose with all fellow service members. 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.”

Responding to the letter, the Navy have said the incident is now under review. Although there has been no express apology, and in fact earlier this month the Navy had downplayed the abuse, there does seem to be an admission that something went wrong as they attempt to distance themselves from the events that took place in that two year period:

“The incidents that occurred within the Military Working Dog Division at Naval Support Activity Bahrain do not reflect who we are as a Navy… the Navy is now looking into the handling of this situation more carefully,”
Navy spokesperson Commander Cappy Surette said.

So, how exactly was Joseph Rocha treated?

He was:

  • Forced to take part in film recordings whereby he would have to simulate gay sex with other officers.
  • Was repeatedly asked by his commanding officer if he was a “faggot” because he refused to have sex with a prostitute.
  • Was told by that same commanding officer to act “more queer, have a higher pitched voice, make the sounds and gestures more realistic” under threat of being outed and suspended if he did not comply.

And the abuse didn’t stop there.

Here is Joseph speaking about what happened to him in a Youth Radio interview:

Rep Sestak wants to know how Rocha’s commanding officer was ever promoted if this is the way he managed his platoon:

“It would astound me if he was promoted if these allegations are true… what kind of a command climate is that?” He asked in a recent interview.

Joseph Rocha was formerly discharged from the military after admitting that he was gay in a written statement, feeling he was unable to carry on due to depression and emerging symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

Those opposing the military Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy are pointing to the abuse that Rocha suffered and the treatment that he was then subjected to by the Navy, in spite of being a model officer in every other respect barring his sexuality (which he was unsure of when he enlisted, no doubt making the harassment all that much more unbearable), as prime reasons why DADT must be repealed.

For the first time since it was enacted, DADT will go to a Senate Armed Service Committee meeting to be held in October, with high profiled law makers and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, expected to attend. The hearing came at the request of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) who still hopes to bring a vote on a DADT repeal into Congress.

How Can You Help Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

Show your support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act that will allow LGBTs to serve openly in the military – Sign this Care2 Petition now.

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


Ritva J.
Ritva J9 years ago

Everybody has a right to love and be loved.

Paul Diamond
Paul Diamond9 years ago

Many people have convinced themselves that they are hurt in some way by homosexuals. However, they tend to talk in the abstract. They are talking out of your religious conviction.
To them I ask individually and collectively, how are you hurt? How are you hurt if two people love one another manifest that love?
Many christians point Leviticus 18:22 as proof of their opposition to homosexuals. While the King James translation calls it an abomination(interesting since James I who commisioned the translation was a flaming queen). Of course these same christians choose, generally, to ignore most of the rest of the 'abominations' that are illucidated in that book.
The hebrew word actually translates as 'unclean.' A condition that can be remedied, It is remedied by a ritual bath in rainwater and a sacrifice of a lamb in the temple.
Nowhere in the bible is homosexuality forbidden. Nowhere is it prohibitted.
Others say it is 'unnatural.' Studis of animals in nature, particularly our cousins the primates as well as other mammals, often display homosexual behavior. Particularly when the population exceeds the resources.
I, for one, am getting very tired of the persecution of LGBT community. Discrimination of even the least among us diminishes us all. I pity those who don't understand that simple tenet shared by all religions.

Charlene R.
Charlene Rush9 years ago

This is 2009 and many people, still don't understand, that you cannot MAKE anyone, be gay or straight. You are, who you are and my biggest worry, concerns those persons who are vehemently opposed to and fearful of gays. These are the dangerous ones, because their sexuality is not certain and it scares them.

Aod D.
Amberlee B9 years ago

Whether the kid was gay or not, he shouldn't have been subjected to this insanity! What if he had been religious and believed that sex wasn't something to be done casually? Does that suddenly make him gay? What if he didn't feel going to a prostitute was the right thing to do? This is very sick and I feel sorry for this kid, if what we are hearing is true.

Barbara V.
Barbara V9 years ago

Oh God, why can't people just LIVE and let LIVE? And leave Mr. Obama out of it, Miz Chen. People picking on gays are ignorant, prejudiced and stupid. THEY'RE the ones needing education to the fact that one is born gay, it is not "acquired." Repeat: LIVE and LET LIVE, and perhaps in one tiny respect the world will be a better place.

Alice B.
Alice B9 years ago

David Harmon you are SO IGNORANT! "Don't Ask Don't Tell" means HIDE WHO YOU ARE OR YOU ARE IN DEEP SH*T. The military doesn't give a rat's ass if somebody in the armed forces is a serial RAPIST - just so long as that rapist is a straight person; no consequences. (I worked as a chem-dep counselor at our local VA Hospital, working with both straight and LB women who had been raped by their "compatriot" males while in the military; believe me, it was always a case of BLAME THE VICTIM - and NO help.)
On the other hand, "out" LGBT sexual preference is about actively dealing with extreme societal DEMONIZATION. It is not about a "lifestyle' - it's about having a genetic/biological state of being that is DEMONIZED AND DISCRIMINATED AGAINST OPENLY.
Homophobic behaviors are the constant - not LGBT people 'shrieking about their sexuality' and 'causing problems' thereby.

David Harmon
David Harmon9 years ago

Why does it matter that everyone in the world knows whom is gay? There are websites now adays, gatherings, Parades etc. OK, Then why caint people whom are passive sex slaves, bondage and corset lovers, dominatrix, masters, rough sex, fetish people of all kinds including scat and golden showers announce their way of life? Many truely need this to have a normal life just as Gays claim. I am not against anyone gay, nor do I condone any agression towards people whom are. I have family members whom are gay. I simply feel that anouncing it CONTINUALLY to the entire WORLD is not needed. I do not announce my sexual preferance continually and I have always found what I needed. Gays have it alot easier to find themselves partners than the people I named above. It is not accepted by society for those people to announce their sexual preferrance (above). WHY then must we continually hear it from GAYS? HELLO, Im JOHNNY, IM GAY! So what. STOP IT. It is wrong and absolutly ridiculous. This only supports the claim by the homofobs how unbalanced and insecure many gays are . Many bondage, slave types use certain jewelry to identify Their asscociation with that way of life therefore meeting others. NO MEGAPHONE ANOUNCEMENTS EVERY 5 MINS. As for the military, what does it matter what your sexual preferance is? Your there for another reason. DEFENCE of the country not seeking out sex partners. WHY MUST any MILITARY person announce their sexual preferrance? Other than to cause problems.

Steve Bates
Past Member 9 years ago

i agree with you!! and he will continue to do nothing because that was all he wanted!! and he got what he wanted!!

Celene Chen
Celene Chen9 years ago

This is an unbelievable law. They risk their lives for our lives, and we repay them by asking them to be quiet while they suffer? Why hasn't Obama done anything about this? He had gained many of our votes and now he is doing nothing.