When This Man Was Sexually Assaulted by a Fellow Marine, the Corps Refused to Take Action

When This Man Was Sexually Assaulted by a Fellow Marine, the Corps Refused to Take Action

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Last Friday saw Justin Rose write an essay for The New York Times about his sexual assault and the lack of support he received from the Marine Corps after the incident. Rose was assaulted by a fellow Marine, but during his abuser’s court martial hearing the judge decided the incident couldn’t have happened because men don’t sexually abuse men. Rose’s abuser later continued his pattern of abuse, perhaps emboldened by getting away with it, and is now in prison.

According to his essay, Justin Rose was sexually assaulted on New Year’s Day 2006. His abuser was a man Rose considered a friend who touched him sexually while he slept. But when it came time for Rose’s abuser to face a court martial for what he’d done, the testimony from Rose and three other Marines was “not conclusive enough for a conviction.”

The defense attorney framed Justin Rose and his fellow testifiers as liars trying to ruin a man’s career because he was a religious man from the Midwest. The lawyer said that since Rose and the others were from the Northeast, they were “not accustomed to his kind of Christian fundamentalism.” (Helpful hint: If your kind of Christian fundamentalism involves sexually assaulting people why they sleep, you’re doing it wrong.)

Justin Rose in Djibouti around 2005 (photo his own)

Rose writes that not being believed caused him to even doubt his own story. And he faced accusations of lying from the very beginning: “My disorientation only worsened when I reported what had happened, and the first question from my chain of command was, ‘Are you sure you’re not making this up?’ That line of questioning, that attack on the victim’s credibility, persisted right up until the trial seven months later. And at the trial, it won.”

Though Justin Rose got promoted and was given a leadership post, when the news of his assault reached the Marines he was leading, they repeatedly mocked him for it. Though Rose says, “Usually, when a Marine finds a weakness or something another Marine is insecure about, he is relentless in attacking it. It’s how Marines bond, in their own aggressive, competitive way.”

But abusers generally don’t just abuse one person, and Justin Rose’s abuser continued the pattern. A year and a half ago Rose testified in a criminal trial after the same man abused three male soldiers at the Army post at Fort Riley. This time a judge believed him, and the abuser was sentenced to 49 years in prison.

As for Rose — he left the Marine Corps the year after his assault and joined the Army Reserve. He’s no longer secretive about his story. He tells it to fellow Marines every year so they know should any abuse happen, they can come to him. Rose promises to give them the one thing the Marine Corps should have given him: respect.

Is the Marine Corps facing an issue more serious than what happened to Justin Rose?

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