According to the Pentagon, 38 military men are sexually assaulted every single day, and since the victims usually don't speak out, the perpetrators nearly always go free.
Steve Stovey is one such victim, who joined the US Navy soon after turning 25, in the hope of seeing the world. In the first year and a half, Stovey tells GQ magazine, that he had the greatest time of his life, however, in the late September of 1999, he faced the unknown, when he was physically abused in a remote storage area of the ship.
Stovey recalls being sent to get supplies from the storage area, and shortly after he was attacked by three men who threw a black hood over his head and sodomized him. He remained in hiding, in a bathroom until the pain receded.
Two weeks later, when the ship reached Hawaii and Stovey was united with his father, he recalls the meeting as the hope that kept him from killing himself, saying the timing was, "almost a miracle. When I saw him, it was the most safe feeling I'd ever felt in my whole life." Yet, Stovey kept the secret. "I couldn't tell him," he added.
An estimated 14,000 military men were assaulted in 2012 alone, according to GQ magazine.
"One of the myths is that the perpetrators identify as gay, which is by and large not the case. It's not about the sex. It's about power and control. In a hypermasculine culture, what's the worst thing you can do to another man? Force him into what the culture perceives as a feminine role," said James Asbrand, a psychologist with the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs.
Victims Speak Out
Dana Chipman, who served as a Judge advocate general for the US Army from 2009 to 2013 explained: "The way we socialize people probably has some effect on the incidents. We cut your hair, and we give you the same clothes, and we tell you that you have no more privacy, you have no more individual rights—we're gonna take you down to your bare essence and then rebuild you in our image."
In a series of interviews with military officials, GQ reveals that some victims, like Kole Welsh from the US Army (2002-07) suffered permanent physical scars as well.
"I had actually let the assault go, because I didn't want it to interfere with my career. But there was some residual damage. A month and a half later, I was brought into a room with about nine officers and told: 'You've tested positive [for HIV].' I was removed from the military and signed out within a day. It was a complete shock," said Welsh.
Matthew Own who served in the US Army from 1976-to-1980 says he's tried to forgive his perpetrators in order to heal, but it has been hard.
"My thought of what I would do to them is, I would first tie 'em down to a table. Then I would take a blowtorch, and I would slowly roast them from their toes to the top of their head. You know how long that's been on my mind?"
Research reveals that military sexual trauma (MST) victims are often falsely diagnosed with personality disorders so that they can be discharged without the government bearing the cost of aftercare required in treating post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD).
An estimated 31,000 military personnel were involuntarily discharged for personality disorders between 2001 and 2010.
"If they want you to be schizophrenic, you're schizophrenic," says Trent Smith, an MST survivor.