When we first read the lede in a military newspaper’s article about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we quickly scanned the page for a notation that this was a piece of satire. But we didn’t find one in Stars and Stripes, the unofficial official rag for service members, their families, and the military community, when it reported some gay soldiers are filing false sexual harassment charges against their lovers to avoid being kicked out under DADT.
The case at hand centers around 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment soldier Spc. Raymond A. Verrill, who’s defense against a sexual assault claim is that the 20-year-old private making the charges made the whole thing up. But the unidentified alleged victim? He says he was passed out in bed — Verrill’s bed — back in January when he awoke to Verrill performing oral sex on him; Verrill, who is married with kids, maintains the act was consensual.
But if Verrill’s side of the story is true, why would his accuser make this up? Because a little policy called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell would ensure they were both kicked out of the military for being gay if anyone found out. By inventing the sexual assault charge, Verill’s defense team argues, the victim can maintain his position on the “right” side of the policy, i.e. that he’s straight.
For what it’s worth, the accuser wrote a letter saying he forgives Verrill and doesn’t want to see him prosecuted, but maintains the sex act was not consensual. But will that influence Verrill’s case? The 36-year-old, reports Stripes, “faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole after being accused of abusive sexual contact, forcible sodomy and making a false official statement.” (Forcible sodomy for oral sex?)
The legal experts’ opinions, presented at the hearing by Verrill’s defense lawyers, do not address the specific facts of Verrill’s case but they examine the issue of false sexual assault claims by gay military personnel.
Bridget Wilson, a California lawyer who represents gay and bisexual servicemembers, said in her affidavit presented to the hearing’s investigative officer that she was aware of many cases in which parties clearly consented to sex but where a claim of assault arose from one party’s fear of the potential consequences if their homosexual conduct were to be known to others.
Discovery of the conduct virtually guarantees that the servicemembers involved will be separated, she said in her affidavit.
“The current regulations on homosexual conduct, because they mandate the separation of these persons who engage in homosexual conduct with very limited exceptions, provide a powerful motive to claim a particular sexual incident was not consensual,” she said. “If the acts are not consensual, that individual will not face separation and the loss of a career.”
John Hutson, the dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center in New Hampshire — and a former judge advocate general of the Navy — also wrote the investigating officer, advising him to consider how the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy has influenced the way some servicemembers interact with one another.
“It would be important to consider the stigma that comes when a servicemember fears that his or her peers or commander will discover sexual activity in violation of the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy,” he wrote.