By Lacey Johnson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A female midshipman testified on Wednesday she woke up disheveled, in pain and with a clouded recollection of the party in which three former U.S. Naval Academy football players are accused of raping her.
Three midshipmen – Tra’ves Bush, Eric Graham and Joshua Tate – are charged with sexually assaulting the woman in April 2012 after she blacked out from drinking too much at an off-campus party.
During her testimony at a preliminary hearing in the case, the female midshipman, who was a sophomore and 20 years old at the time of the alleged assault, recalled waking up with a painful knot on her back and little memory of the night before.
“I noticed I was really disheveled,” she testified. “I was really nerve-racked because I didn’t know what had happened.”
Later that day, Tate, who had invited her to the party, informed her that she had sexual intercourse with him and Graham, according to the female midshipman, who is a senior at the academy.
“He was like, ‘What? You don’t remember?'” she said. “He told me that we had sex and he was going to have to refresh my memory.”
“He was laughing,” she added, “and then I was like, ‘I don’t want to hear anymore.'”
The party took place at an off-campus party in Annapolis, Maryland, home of the elite academy that trains men and women to become professional officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
In the days following the party, fellow students and social media outlets led the midshipman to believe she might have also unknowingly had sex with Bush – with whom she has a history of ongoing consensual sex – and possibly others.
“It seemed like everyone knew something I didn’t know,” said the midshipman, who did remember having consensual sex with one football player at the house the morning after the party.
“I didn’t remember having sex with six to nine people … so I was just kind of shocked.”
The so-called Article 32 hearing will determine if a general court-martial is warranted. Navy Commander Robert Monahan, who is presiding over the case at Washington’s Navy Yard, is expected to take several days to weigh the evidence.
After a probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Michael Miller in June ordered Bush, Graham and Tate be charged with sexual assault and making false statements.
Nearly two weeks after the party, a fellow student approached the midshipman and insisted she report the underage drinking and possible sexual assault to authorities, she said.
“I did not want to report it at all,” said the midshipman, explaining that she did not want to get anyone in trouble and feared that her mother would force her to leave the academy.
Under pressure, the woman says she ultimately filed an assault report and volunteered to accept punishment for underage drinking. She sought legal help in early 2013.
Reuters generally does not publish the names of sexual assault victims.
The hearing comes after a spate of high-profile military sexual assault cases, including some involving personnel whose job it was to prevent sexual abuse.
A Pentagon study estimated that unwanted sexual contact in the military jumped by 37 percent in 2012 to 26,000 cases.
President Barack Obama told Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, this month that sexual assault undermined the U.S. military. He also spoke at the Naval Academy’s graduation ceremony in May and urged the new officers to stamp out sexual assault in their ranks.
(Additional reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Barbara Goldberg)