SANTA BARBARA, CA, – The Navy is reprimanding and forcing the retirement of a chief petty officer who oversaw and perpetrated a string of abuses against a gay sailor and others in a military working dog unit in Bahrain, the Virginia Pilot is reporting today. After an investigation begun by Youth Radio prompted by an inquiry from Congressman Joe Sestak, the Navy conducted a review of complaints that Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint had harassed and abused Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha and others, in part because of their sexual orientation. The incidents included forced simulation of homosexual acts, being fed dog food, and being hog-tied to a chair and rolled into a dog kenel full of feces.
As a result of the investigation, the Secretary of the Navy is issuing a letter of censure faulting Toussaint’s actions. “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 at University of California, Santa Barbara. “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 for gays and lesbians.”