No charges have been filed, but according to The New York Times, the Naval Academy has confirmed the existence of an ongoing inquiry into allegations that three football players raped a female midshipman at an April 2012 off-campus party. One of the three players has had his graduation and commissioning delayed as a result of the investigation.
The case has dragged on in part because the victim, who is now 21, initially did not want to cooperate with investigators. She had been disciplined for underage drinking on the night in question, but the Times indicates the difficulties she was facing go much deeper than that:
Candace Tisdale, a midshipman and a friend of the woman at the center of the current investigation, said women at the academy learn to adapt to harassment and a sometimes-hostile climate. “The desire to be accepted by the group, and the high stress during plebe summer and plebe year, make you accept it,” she said. The academy culture teaches midshipmen to meet high moral standards but also drills into students not to “throw shipmates under the bus,” she said.
Annie Kendzior, a former midshipman who has filed a lawsuit over two alleged assaults by athletes in 2008 that she did not report to the academy until 2011, said she initially declined to pursue the cases because she “didn’t want to be labeled as this person who got varsity athletes kicked out.”
The woman acknowledges having gone to a party at what's known as "the football house" and being drunk when she arrived. She drank more and blacked out, remembering only flashes of subsequent events—being on a bed with one of the players, being in a car—before coming to on a stairwell and finally waking up in the morning on a couch.
The woman discovered bruises on her body the following day. A friend told her she had seen her with a football player, and when the woman spoke to the player, he told her he and another player had had sex with her—though the player later denied having said this.
A friend of the woman said rumors of the incident soon began spreading, and the woman was eventually shown comments on a private Facebook page that that seemed to allude to the situation. But the woman only decided to talk to investigators after hearing that another female midshipman had intentions on reporting the incident:
“She wanted to put it behind her, but she couldn’t because it was the buzz of the campus,” said her lawyer, Ms. [Susan] Burke.
The female midshipman met with a chaplain at the academy, and then an academy sexual assault counselor. The counselor told her that she had already heard about the episode from five or six people, whom the counselor did not identify, but said none had provided the woman’s name, the midshipman said.
The woman was still hesitant to cooperate because she admitted to being drunk and unable to remember much of anything, even though a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent made it clear that no one had the right to violate her.
Around campus, things only got worse for the woman, who soon found herself being intimidated and ostracized:
Kenyon Williams, a midshipman and a friend of the woman, said she had to deal with subtle intimidation. “The football team sits together in the dining hall, and we would have to walk past them to go to dinner, and sometimes they would stare at her,” he said. Last fall, she had to abide by an academy rule requiring all midshipmen to attend every Navy home football game. She said that at some games, she would sit by herself.
“I hated every minute of it,” she said.
The NCIS questioned many of those who attended the party, and the woman was one of several people disciplined for underage drinking and related offenses—even after she says an academy lawyer had told her she wouldn't be punished. The inquiry into the rape allegation then languished because the woman still wasn't cooperating fully. But in January, with a faculty member encouraging her, she came forward again and hired Burke as her lawyer, this time determined not to hold anything back. The NCIS is preparing a report that is expected to be completed in the next week or two, after which it will be up to Vice Adm. Michael H. Miller, the academy's superintendent, to decide whether any charges will be filed.
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