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Marine who was sexually assaulted in the corps by another man writes courageous essay

Essay recounts a Marine's account and healing of male on male sexaul assault.
Photo credit:
Dyess AFB

Captain Justin Rose had his day in court two years ago, sitting on the stand to give testimony on his experience being sexually assaulted by another male Marine while stationed on Horn of Africa in 2006. Rose reported the incident just after it occurred but no one believed him. 

Years of conflict both internally and externally were to follow, until a decade later when the court gave him another chance at validation. 

In an essay for the New York Times, the victim recounts his sexual assault and experiences, reporting the abuse, and going to court shortly after.

He even had three other victims to back him up during the first court-martial. 

"That judge found our testimony not conclusive enough for a conviction. According to the defense, we were liars, telling stories meant to ruin the career of another Marine who happened to come from a different place, geographically and culturally: He was a Midwesterner from a religious background, and we were from the Northeast and not accustomed to his kind of Christian fundamentalism."

Rose said he turned the blame inward.

"I fought with the idea that I somehow invited this upon myself, that I deserved it or was somehow to blame for the assault. It stripped away my confidence and degraded the trust I had in my fellow Marines. I questioned the values that I first bought into when I became a Marine: the belief in honor, courage and commitment that was instilled by our drill instructors.

I didn’t immediately confront my attacker face to face — so where was my courage or honor? How would I react to real combat? Where was the commitment from my fellow Marines, when I needed support in the aftermath of the attack? Would they be there for me if I needed their help on the battlefield one day?"

He says he was promoted in the same year after the assault, but he was not celebrating. 

"Though I had earned the title and the authority of a leadership position, my self-esteem had been ruined. I was a Marine who, while sleeping, had been sexually touched by another Marine, inappropriately and without consent — and I hadn’t done anything about it. A real Marine would have fought back, I thought. A real leader would have resorted to violence as an immediate and instinctual means of retribution against his attacker.

My inaction that night crippled me, and I had no way to fix it. And the response of my fellow Marines only made things worse. In a Marine unit nothing stays a secret forever, and my confidence was misplaced when I trusted in my noncommissioned officers to keep my story quiet. Within days my story had spread throughout our small camp. Usually, when a Marine finds a weakness or something another Marine is insecure about, he is relentless in attacking it."

The years that followed since that first court-martial brought some healing, but it wasn't until 2016 when the abuser was on trial that Rose finally felt vindicated. 

"Ten years after my assault, I received a call from a detective in Kansas who was building a case against the man who had assaulted me. After he had left the Marine Corps, he had continued assaulting and violating people. In 2010 he had been convicted of a sexual assault, but served no prison time. Now he was facing 54 years for sexually assaulting three male soldiers from the Army post at Fort Riley."

Rose said he left his wife and daughter to go tell his story one more time, but this time to people more open to believing him. After his assailant was found guilty and sentenced to 49 years, he went on Facebook Messenger to confront the team leader who didn't believe him. He decided against the sending the first message and settled on “What do you want your legacy to be, and what did you do to accomplish that today?” and pressed send. 

You can read the entire essay HERE.