Abused: Joseph Rocha

The US Navy has reprimanded and forced a soldier, who oversaw a number of anti-gay abuses in a military dog unit in Bahrain, to retire.

Chief Petty Officer Michael Toussaint was found to have harassed and abused Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Rocha and others between 2004 and 2006, in part because of their sexual orientation.

The incidents included repeated forced simulation of homosexual acts, being fed dog food, and being tied to a chair and rolled into a dog kennel full of faeces. Some of the incidents were recorded on video.

Rocha did not report the abuse because he feared being fired because of his sexuality. Following his return from the Middle East, he developed symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After acknowledging to his superiors that he is gay, he was discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell”.

“I think it gives me and a lot of people a lot of hope. For men and women, heterosexual, lesbian or gay…this re-establishes what navy leadership is,” Rocha commented to CNN on the Navy’s decision to punish Toussaint.

“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.”

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