Two children of a Navy officer told social workers they had been sexually molested by their father. Social workers investigated the allegations and concluded that they were credible, but when the Navy investigated, the officer was cleared. Now the Navy lieutenant is divorcing his wife, and she and his four children are currently destitute and living in a motel room, The Virginian-Pilot reports.
Not only is the family now destitute, but the judge in the divorce case determined the officer’s wife was using the allegations of sexual assault to damage her husband’s career. The judge declared the wife in contempt of court and sentenced her to a $5,000 fine or 10 days in jail. According to The Pilot,
The family home in Virginia Beach has been lost to foreclosure. The wife and four children have moved five times in four years, ending up in a cockroach-infested motel room at the Oceanfront, where they live among the homeless and drug addicts.
Meanwhile the officer has been promoted within the Navy and is currently making $96,000 a year.
The officer is accused of sexually abusing his 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. After social workers concluded that the allegations of sexual molestation were credible, they placed the lieutenant’s name on the State Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. He was then forbidden from going within 2 miles of the home, school, or workplace of any of his 4 children, until they turn 18.
In an interview with a social worker obtained by The Pilot, the officer’s daughter “said her father took her into a bedroom, locked the door, pinned her down by her wrists and raped her.” Two years after the rape occurred, the girl’s counselor reported that she was “experiencing high levels of depression and post-traumatic stress with anxiety, insomnia and flashbacks, and had developed an ulcer.”
The girl reported having thoughts of suicide, and said she takes “three or four showers a day to feel clean.”
In 2009, the children’s mother was alerted to the molestation after her son came home from a stay with his father and reported that his father had forced him to watch as he and his girlfriend had sex. The mother was somewhat skeptical until the daughter spoke up: “Daddy hurt me, also.” The mother called Child Protective Services and her son told a social worker that his father tied him up and gagged him before forcing him to watch his sexual encounter. The son also alleged that his father had groped him multiple times in the middle of the night.
The daughter’s allegation was first reviewed by a Virginia Beach Navy committee in 2009. The son’s allegations were examined by a committee in 2012. “The military is reluctant to make findings in any kind of sexual abuse cases,” Betty Wade Coyle, executive director emeritus of Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads, told The Pilot. “Especially if it’s an officer, it practically takes an act of Congress.”
In both cases, Child Protective Services determined the sexual assault acts constituted the most severe designation, “Level 1” abuse, meaning the children suffered “serious harm.” The lieutenant appealed the findings in both cases and, in his daughter’s case, settled with the child protection agency by admitting to “Level 2” sexual abuse, meaning the child suffered “moderate harm.”
The officer has faced no criminal prosecution, either civilian or military. A spokeswoman for Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney, Harvey Bryant, told The Pilot that Bryant’s office declined to prosecute the case. A criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher standard of proof than that required by child protection agencies.
Because The Virginian-Pilot’s report shed light on the case, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has opened an investigation to determine whether there is enough evidence to being criminal charges against the lieutenant.
The disturbing incident is indicative of a larger trend of rampant sexual assault in the United States military. So many stories emerged during the past year of members of the military who escaped punishment for perpetrating acts of sexual assault, that the US Senate Armed Services Committee met to discuss the issue last March. It was the first committee hearing on the subject in a decade.
About 3,000 sexual assault complaints are filed throughout the military each year, though estimates suggest the number of sexual assaults occurring per year is around 19,000. Underreporting of sexual assault cases stems from the fact that victims fear retribution for coming forward and perpetrators are often protected and face no consequences.