Lawyers in U.S. Naval Academy Rape Trial Grill Victim, Call Her a 'Ho'S

Well, this is completely sickening: the defense lawyers for three former U.S. Naval Academy football players accused of raping their classmate spent roughly thirty hours over the course of several days grilling the victim about her sex habits. The questions — which were asked in a public hearing — were intrusive, victim-blaming, and humiliating. The victim was asked whether she wore underwear to the party at which she was raped, whether she apologized to one of her accused rapists "for being a ho," and how wide she opened her mouth during oral sex. Absolutely, totally vile.

Almost two years ago, the victim awoke with no memory of the previous night. After reading posts on social media, she realized that she'd been raped by three of her classmates, Tra’ves Bush, Eric Graham and Joshua Tate. She was originally hesitant to press charges, and clearly rightfully so. Her rape trial is an Article 32 proceeding, which is a military hearing meant to determine whether or not a case will be sent to court-martial; according to the New York Times, Article 32 hearings "permit questions not allowed in civilian courts and can include cross-examinations of witnesses so intense that legal experts say they frighten many victims from coming forward."

The Times' depiction of the victim's cross-examination by the defense is nauseating:

In the Article 32 cross-examination, defense lawyers repeatedly asked the midshipman about a consensual sexual encounter she said she had the next day. In some of the most widely disseminated testimony, Andrew Weinstein, a lawyer for Mr. Bush, asked the woman whether she wore a bra or other underwear to the party and whether she “felt like a ho” afterward. Lt. Cmdr. Angela Tang, a lawyer for Mr. Graham, also asked the woman repeatedly about her oral sex technique, arguing over objections from the prosecution that oral sex would indicate the “active participation” of the woman and therefore consent.

In a civilian trial, questions about a woman's underwear and how she performs oral sex would not be permitted, for about one thousand obvious reasons.

Says Diane H. Mazur, an emeritus law professor at the University of Florida, "What this case shows is that we think the military justice system can somehow solve the sexual assault problem, but it can’t." Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand's bill calling for military sexual assault cases to be removed from the chain of command is up for debate this fall. This horrifically-handled case proves how necessary such legislation is.

In the meantime the lawyer representing the rape survivor has filed a federal lawsuit to strip the Naval Academy's superintendent of authority over the case.

"Intrusive Grilling in Rape Case Raises Alarm on Military Hearings" [NYT]