A DADT Victim's Day in Court
July 16, 2010
Former petty officer 3rd class Joseph Christopher Rocha wasn't the only soldier in his unit subjected to hazing by superiors. But the degrading harassment he faced struck a decidedly different tone.
In a federal trial challenging the constitutionality of "don't ask, don't tell" that began this week in a Riverside, Calif. courtroom, Rocha, 24, testified in graphic detail on Thursday about pervasive humiliation he suffered while in training to become an elite military dog handler, abuse that went far beyond ritual hazing.
"I don't know if I've ever recovered from it," Rocha said of the abuse. "It was dehumanizing. I felt like an animal."
Performance reviews submitted to the court indicated Rocha was an exemplary soldier with a bright future. But Rocha said he did not speak up about the abuse because he feared it would derail his goal of entering the Naval Academy. "I'm confident that, at least personally, had 'don't ask, don't tell' not been the policy, I would have felt confident to report the abuse when it escalated and not fear reprisal."