Servicemen on the second submarine in the U.S. Navy to integrate female officers and sailors with its male crew kept ranked “rape lists” of the women, triggering fears for their safety, a military investigation found.
The lists were shared on the USS Florida, a guided-missile submarine, where investigators found that “lewd and sexist comments and jokes were tolerated, and trust up and down the chain of command was nonexistent,” according to a 74-page investigative report last year obtained by Military.com through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Capt. Gregory Kercher, who was the commanding officer of the sub at the time, was reportedly informed by an aide last June about the existence of two lists of female crew members on the sub. One ranked the women with a 1-to-4 asterisk system; the other included sexually explicit comments next to each name corresponding to the ranking, the investigation found.
“Rumors of a ‘rape list’ were promulgated throughout the crew, significant numbers of females became concerned for their safety, and male members who learned of the list were equally repulsed,” Rear Adm. Jeff Jablon, then-commander of Submarine Group 10, wrote to his superior, Military.com reported. “Very few knew what limited action was being taken” by Kercher, he noted.
Though Jablon referred to a “rape list,” the information apparently did not specifically mention rape — but did refer to “aggressive sexual activity” with the women, according to the investigation.
“The sexually explicit list describes various USS Florida females by appearances, characteristics and various sexual acts the creators of the list wish to perform with them,” the report found. “The list describes aggressive sexual activity, but does not reference non-consensual acts.”
Kercher was removed from his job last August. The reason given publicly at the time was because of a loss of confidence due to a “poor command climate” that triggered an investigation, Naval News reported. The lists were not mentioned by the Navy.
Two sailors were also discharged, U.S. submarine services spokeswoman Sarah Self-Kyler told Military.com. “Additional administrative actions were taken against other members of the command for their mishandling of the report” of the lists, she said.
At the time of the lists, there were 32 women among a 173-member “gold crew” on the sub based in Kings Bay, Georgia — which rotates with a second crew, according to the military publication.
Kercher boasted early last year of the ease of integrating women on the USS Florida.
“If we tried to do this 15 to 20 years ago in a sudden manner, I think it would have been difficult,” Kercher told the Florida Times-Union. “We wouldn’t have been prepared for it, and it probably wouldn’t have went off as seamless as it has.”
According to the investigation, a sailor on the USS Florida last June showed a female petty officer two lists which included the name of every woman on board with rankings and sexual comments. He said the lists were on the submarine computer network and men updated them and voted on the women. The petty officer took photos of the lists and reported them to a superior. But little action was reportedly taken, a cause for concern among women on the sub.
One woman told investigators the lists made “her question all males on the boat,” reported Military.com.
Vice Adm. Chas Richard, commander of U.S. Submarine Forces, defended the Navy’s action in investigating the situation and taking action, and called the lists an isolated incident “not at all reflective of the overall outstanding performance and behavior of our submariners force-wide.”
While he said he “cannot guarantee that an incident such as this will never happen again, I can guarantee that we will continue to enforce our high standards of conduct and character,” Richard said in a statement to Military.com. “I expect every submariner to treat one another with dignity and respect, and will hold our personnel accountable if they fall short of our standard.”
In 2014, crew members of the ballistic missile submarine USS Wyoming were also involved in a scandal when it was revealed that female officers and midshipmen were videotaped for close to a year as they undressed or showered.
A Navy investigation in 2015 found that “little could have been done” to prevent the situation.
“No amount of barriers will be able to prevent all illegal attempts to record personnel,” an unnamed investigating officer wrote. He said that “the upholding of standards and holding personnel accountable is the best method to prevent reoccurrence.”
In one of the most infamous instances involving Navy officers, more than 100 Navy and Marine Corps. aviation officers were accused of assaulting 83 women and seven men at the Las Vegas Hilton in 1991 during the Tailhook convention.