'When a gunnery sergeant tells you to take off your clothes, you better take off your clothes': The male victims of military rape tell their heartbreaking stories
By MAILONLINE REPORTER
Though women are more likely to be the victims of rape in the military, male-on-male rape is still a serious problem sweeping the U.S. armed forces.
In a recent GQ article, more than a dozen veterans and current service men came forward to tell of their sexual assault, and how the military institution failed time and time again to bring their predators to justice or get them the psychiatric help they needed.
When a man enters the military he is ten times likelier to be sexually abused, and in 2012 alone there were an estimated 14,200 reports of male rape.
Steve Stovey, Navy: 'As a man, I can't perform the way I used to. I just feel damaged. All I remember, along with the pain, is the slapping sound of being raped. I try to make love to my wife, but I can't - I'm triggered. I'm traumatized by that sound.'
This is problematic since men are much less likely to report these incidents, leaving their attackers in positions of power and keeping the pain inside to boil over into other relationships.
The power structure within the military also makes these attacks more prevalent, because men in lower ranks may find it hard to report their attackers if they are superiors.
'When a gunnery sergeant tells you to take off your clothes, you better take off your clothes. You don't ask questions,' former Marine Sam Madrid (name changed) said.
Before 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' was repealed, it also meant the possibility of a dishonorable discharge for engaging in homosexual behavior.
When Kole Walsh was assaulted during his time in the Army in 2007, he decided not to report the incident for fear it could harm his military goals.
Kole Welsh, Army, 2002 - 2007: 'I had actually let the assault go, because I didn't want it to interfere with my career. I wanted to be an officer, and I just said, "Bad experience, won't let that happen again." But there was some residual damage. A month and a half later, I was brought into a room with about nine officers and told, "You've tested positive [for HIV]." I was removed from the military and signed out within a day. It was a complete shock.'
Heath Phillips, Navy, 1988-1989: 'I just couldn't handle working around men. I've done masonry work, but I'd last only a couple weeks. I would have outbursts. Sometimes sexual jokes would trigger me. I'd be like, "Listen, you perverted scumbag..." When things upset me, I yell [my attackers'] names out to people. The guys would just look at you like, This guy is crazy.'
'I had actually let the assault go, because I didn't want it to interfere with my career. I wanted to be an officer, and I just said, "Bad experience, won't let that happen again." But there was some residual damage.
'A month and a half later, I was brought into a room with about nine officers and told, "You've tested positive [for HIV]." I was removed from the military and signed out within a day. It was a complete shock,' Walsh told GQ.
And when the men aren't silencing themselves, the military is doing it for them by discharging victims for misdiagnosed personality disorders and letting their attackers continue to serve.
One of the doctors said to me afterward, 'Son, men don't get raped.'
From 2001 to 2010, nearly 31,000 servicemen were involuntarily discharged for personality disorders with many being denied free VA treatment since many of these illnesses are considered pre-existing conditions.
But even for those who are able to receive therapy through the VA, many don't get the kind of help that they need since the programs are mainly designed for women.
'When I first got out, I tried to seek treatment with the VA. It became an issue where every time I came back, it was a different person; they had interns filling in. Every time, I had to relive telling the story again. It just became too much. It's a joke,' Army vet Ted Skoranek added.
'One of the doctors said to me afterward, "Son, men don't get raped," former Navy sailor Terry Neal said.
Trent Smith, Air Force, enlisted 2011: 'He was a senior aide—he had a direct line to the top. Being invited over to his house, I just took it as I should go. Looking back, I ask myself, Why didn't you do anything? It wasn't like he held me down or tied me up. I didn't want to cross him. I really didn't feel like I had any choice. I had just turned 19. It could be my career. I froze and went along with it.'
Another issue is the military justice system that has only convicted an 7 per cent of all MSP cases that go to trial, which is why an estimated 81 per cent of victims never even report.
New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand fought to change this by proposing the Military Justice Improvement Act that would strip commanders of the power to prosecute sexual assaults, and give that decision to independent military prosecutors.
While the bill won a majority in the senate, it was not enough votes to beat the threat of a filibuster.
Meanwhile, the victims continue to suffer in silence.
'I'm terrified of men. I'm gay and I'm terrified of men,' former Army soldier Gary Jones (name changed) said.
'I can't even get an erection, especially since I got sober. I isolate. I don't go to movies, I can't handle concerts. I have horrid nightmares.
'Last Christmas, I went to dinner with some friends, and at one point I started panicking so bad I had to get out of the restaurant. I was shaking. I never even told anybody about this until last July. Do you know what it's like to live with this for thirty years?'