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Anti-gay hazing, attempted rape of sailor leads to firing of top Navy officer

Monday, June 25, 2012
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NORFOLK, Va. — A sailor targeted for harassment aboard the nuclear submarine USS Florida became the center of a homophobic hazing case that led to the firing of the vessel’s top enlisted officer.

An investigative report obtained by the Associated Press indicated that the hazing was directed at a sailor who reported that another man pulled a knife and tried to rape him in the port at Diego Garcia, a joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States located in the Chagos Islands.

USS Florida

According to the report, the victim was generally well-liked on the ship and endured the anti-gay torment for months because he thought it would eventually stop:

Among other things, he was called a derogatory term for a gay person and referred to as “Brokeback,” a reference to the gay-themed movie “Brokeback Mountain.” In addition, someone posted a drawing of a stick figure being sexually assaulted.

Before a group training session on the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the sailor was subjected to comments about coming out of the closet and asked when other sailors could meet his boyfriend and whether his boyfriend was Filipino, the nationality of the person he said tried to rape him.

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After eight months of harassment in 2011, the sailor eventually wrote a note saying he had suicidal thoughts and that he could snap and hurt himself or someone else.

The report says there was a culture of hazing and sexual harassment aboard the submarine and there was inadequate knowledge about the Navy’s policies against it to stop the behavior before the sailor reached that point.

Associated Press, via Military.com

The U.S. Navy announced March 30 that Charles Berry, who had been serving as “chief of the boat” on the Kings Bay, Ga.-based submarine, had been relieved as chief due to dereliction of duty. Aboard a submarine, the chief of the boat advises the commanding officer of issues involving enlisted sailors.

The Navy’s announcement said Berry was not involved in the hazing, but had knowledge of it and failed to inform his chain of command.

The names of the sailor subjected to the harassment, and those involved, were redacted from the report.

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