don't tell hell

Without False Rape Accusations, Victor Fehrenbach Never Would’ve Become a DADT Hero


In order to defend himself against rape accusations made by Cameron Shaner, decorated Iraqi vet Air Force Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was forced to tell investigators his side of the story. Namely, that he met the man accusing him of rape of a gay chat site, and they had consensual sex. Fehrenbach’s story helped clear him of the rape wrap rap, but his admission that he had consensual sex made its way to Air Force brass. Fehrenbach was willing to go quietly with an honorable discharge, until Shaner pushed for a dishonorable one after growing irate there would be no criminal charges. And that, folks, is the short version of how Fehrenbach came under the assault of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell — to become one of its leading opponents.

It’s also the reason why Defense Secretary Robert Gates seems keen on relaxing DADT investigations when soldiers are forced out of the closet like Fehrenbach — not that it’s any consolation to other, closeted gay soldiers. (And, what, if you’re forcibly outed you’re then free to live as an openly gay person among the ranks without the threat of dismissal?)

There’s a much lengthier, well-reported version worthy of your attention at the Idaho Stateman, which includes details like these:

Shaner, the man who put Fehrenbach on the brink, was a Boise State University criminal justice student when he accused Fehrenbach of assaulting him. Shaner served 3Ý years in the Army in the 1990s, including time in Bosnia, and was honorably discharged as a private first class.

According to the Veterans Administration, Shaner has a 100 percent service-connected disability. Shaner told the Idaho Statesman he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and skeletal injuries. He lives in Arizona.

In text messages the night they met, Shaner expressed sexual interest in Fehrenbach, admiring photos of Fehrenbach’s naked body and calling him “stud.” Arriving at Fehrenbach’s home, Shaner disrobed and joined him in the hot tub. Observed Boise police detective Vucinich in his report: “It should be noted that (Shaner) could not give me an answer as to why he, himself, had gotten naked.”

Boise police did not find evidence of rape, said spokeswoman Lynn Hightower. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Roger Bourne said the county decided against prosecution.

The Air Force says its investigation cleared Fehrenbach and discredited Shaner.

Five days before his encounter with Fehrenbach, Shaner contacted the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Mountain Home. He was accompanied by an acquaintance who Shaner said had told him gay men were inviting military men to “HIV parties” in an attempt to infect them with the virus, according to the Air Force.

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  • Rick

    Victor is a good man.

    That asshat that accused him of rape is a desperate hooker.

  • dgz

    reason # 142 to refrain from casual sex with random guys you meet online.

  • BJ

    When I was in the navy, one of my fellow gay sailors was accused of raping a girl in our detachment. This girl was disgruntled because she tried to date my friend, and my friend wanted nothing to do with her. She was known to be a marine mattress. My friend had served faithfully for a dozen years and was respected by his fellow sailors and his commanding officers.

    He was called into the security office of the detachment, informed of the charges against him, and then had to tell the OIC that this girl was full of shit because he was gay and wouldn’t touch her with a ten-foot pole. She was scorned publicly for being a waste and a liar, and he was let go with an honorable discharge.

    DADT is just plain stupid.

  • Andrew

    What a shame. Some f’ing nut falsely accuses and derails the Lt. Colonel’s career. Fehrenbach is a decorated vet who deserves the country’s gratitude and support. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s VGL, smart, and well-spoken) :)

  • Will

    This shows once again the mistake of labelling someone as a “hero” for coming out of the closet. Just like Republican Jim Kolbe, Fehrenbach wasn’t going to come out at all until it was imminent that he would be outed. Is that courageous?

  • Dierdre Robinson

    @Will: You may have a point there.

  • Michael @

    With respect, you get two parts of this story entirely wrong.

    1. Once Fehrenbach was cleared of the rape charge, no matter how hard his accuser tried, he did not have any influence over what TYPE of discharge the Air Force would recommend for Fehrenbach, though it is reasonable to believe that this could have been an instance when, based on Fehrenbach’s extraordinary service record, they might have chosen to “look the other way” had they not thought Shaner would have gone public and subjected them to accusations of not following the law [tho a commander has great leeway in determing what is “credible evidence” which is necessary to start discharge proceedings].

    In fact, the Air Force was being very generous. First, they ruled that, even though he had admitted to having “sex” with Shaner, Fehrenbach did not violate the military ban on “sodomy” which is very broadly defined and could have resulted in a military prison sentence.

    Second, I seem to recall reading that, apparently, they were expecting Obama to end DADT as much as gays were, and postponed his discharge hearing until after the inauguration. In any case, igoring Shaner, they recommended a honorable discharge in April.

    He did NOT decide to challenge his discharge because of Shaner’s hissy fits, but because, “the prospect of President Barack Obama fulfilling a campaign promise to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell prompted Fehrenbach to fight.”

    2. The Idaho Statesman, and several others who are in a much better position to know better, is TOTALLY wrong about Gates’ intentions, and most recent statements.

    His June 30th “humane” comment was a transparent attempt at distraction to help quiet the restless gaysbecause he coupled it with assertions that the DADT law appeared to him too inflexible when, nearly two months before, the Palm Center had published detailed examples of how the law is NOT too inflexible and HIS exiting powers, as Secty of Defense, to limit its application—a report that was widely covered in mainstream media.

    And it came a week after 77 members of Congress sent a letter to the President—which got even wider MSM coverage—asking him to use such powers that DADT gives them to stop discharges.

    On July 16th, Gates said in a speech in Chicago essentially that, “Golly, Aunt Bee, me and Thelma Lou and Otis and Opie and Gomer have been searching Mayberry high and low to find something Andy can do but we just cain’t find nothin’.”

    The Secretary of Defense and his legal team are either

    a. hopelessly stupid; or

    b. intentionally ignoring what someone with no legal
    degree but an access to Google could find re such existing options in order to continue to stall and distract from the fact that he and Obama are CHOOSING to do nothing.

    Mr. Secretary: pick your hat.

    Fehrenbach told the Washington Post three weeks ago that when he attended that White House reception in June with “representatives of the gay community,” he raised the issue with Obama during a brief conversation.

    “We are going to get this done,” Fehrenbach said the president told him.

    “I had tremendous hope then, but a month has gone by and not a word.”

    “See ya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya!”

  • greenman

    While it would great if all gay military personnel would ‘come out’ at the same to time to fight this moronic policy, realistically that isn’t going to happen. As someone who’s never served in the military or had my career dependent on being closeted I have no right to judge. Fehrenbach is no more or less a “hero” because his disclosure wasn’t voluntary. Service members’ sexuality is sometimes disclosed voluntarily but probably more often due to jealousy, vindictive sexual partners, or as in the case false accusations. I watched the interviews with Lt Col Fehrenbach on the Rachel Maddow Show and he never claimed to have come out of his own free will, only in response to an “investigation,” the details of which he did not give. He did not lie.

    I believe the headline of this article, “Without False Rape Accusations, Victor Fehrenbach Never Would’ve Become a DADT Hero,” gives the impression that somehow a false accusation of rape in this case was a GOOD thing though I doubt you intended it that way. You should be careful of that because, unless someone is vocally or actively anti-gay, malicious outings are rarely good for any person or the larger gay community.

    It also shouldn’t be overlooked that most people join the military at a young age, many of them before they have a clear understanding of their sexuality. They didn’t join the military with intent to “lie,” but rather adapted to the situation they found themselves in the best way they knew how, to stay in a career they feel themselves suited for while balancing that with the myth that gay persons are not suited for the military.

  • Rick


    The LTC is indeed HOT.

  • Dierdre Robinson

    @Michael @ I see you’re rabidly adamant about his “hero” status. Especially to go as far as to curse and foam about the mouth, but let’s be real. He was forced out, which implies that if this had not happened, he would still be serving. In the closet, no doubt. I have more admiration and respect for those who came out and were discharged than those who were forced out.

  • Michael @

    @Dierdre Robinson:

    Still stupid after all these years. “Cursing”? How old are you?

    He is being forced out of the Air Force.

    NO ONE forced him to come out to the world which has accelerated the demise of DADT and given countless emerging gay youth someone to look up to besides Boy George sweeping streets as punishment for having, what was it, tied up a trick. Some 700 servicemembers were discharged last year. How many of them came out? How many have come out this year? Therein lies his heroism and your inability to see that is nauseating.

    BTW: still waiting for your own examples of public heroism and sacrifice.

  • Landon Bryce

    @Dierdre Robinson:

    I agree that those who come out willingly are heroes because of that. Victor is a hero because of what he has done AFTER being forced out of the closet. He could not control that. He has been able to control the way he has handled the situation since then, and I see nothing other than heroics there. I see no reason to have anything other than admiration for someone who seems to be very private and has come unwillingly into the limelight with such grace.

  • Disgusted American

    He’s a Major babe!

  • ohgrowup

    Gimme a break

  • Army

    @Dierdre Robinson:

    As a gay soldier, I have very little respect for the gay soldiers these days who turn in letters to their command admitting homosexuality. I have known at least 20 people to do this and all of them just didn’t want to be int he military anymore…that isn’t brave at all.

    Sure Victor wouldn’t have come out on his own, but since he was forced out, instead of remaining silent, he stood up and fought for people like me who are still at risk for discharge. Soldier’s who tell and want kicked out shouldn’t be int he military anyways.

  • Americamom

    My husband worked with the Lt Colonel for several years. Not only did he not know what Victor’s sexual orientation (nor did he really care) but he truly felt that Victor was the best guy to work with in his many year career. And my husband is very very right wing and is sickened over this. I could go on and on but to me, if people work professionally together, what does it matter what they do when they go home?
    And by the way, I am also a veteran and worked with several men and women who were so obviously not straight and made a point of basicly flaunting it (to the point where it sometimes made me uncomfortable… but in the same way that a straight person would make me uncomfortable if they acted like a pig or just overtly sexual). Yet, nothing ever happened to them. I have even known of some gay officers that married other gay officers to make it look like they were in a hetero relationship. If we are going to burn people at the proverbial stake for one conceived “immoral lifestyle” then every unmarried person who has sexual relations should be kindling as well. If you are pregnant and not married… into the flames. Get an STD? Burn baby burn. Yet, it is just boys being boys (and girls)… right?
    I might, and this is a big might, have thought twice about being completely on Victor’s side had the gentleman that accused him had in any way been active duty or even a govenment worker at the time of their encounter. No different if Victor had had relations with a woman who lied and changed her mind but worked somewhere in the military where they could possibly meet again during a wartime situation that could cause tention of some sort and cause a dangerous situation because their minds are not fully on the mission. Victor’s accuser was a whore. Why does it make any difference that his accuser is a man because this would not have even been an issue if Cameron had boobs?
    I do not like how there are double standards.

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