Maj. Mark Thompson, a former instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, is accused of engaging in sexual encounters with two enrolled students at the Academy in 2011. Maj. Joseph Grimm, Thompson’s defense attorney, told the court that Thompson was the “victim of fabrication,” denying his client having fraternized with either midshipmen. One, Ensign Sarah Stadler, testified that she and Thompson had a relationship of repeated and consensual sexual encounters over the course of her senior year at the Academy.
The other, whose name has not been released but is now a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, accuses Thompson of taking advantage of her after a day of drinking. “I’m not really sure if I struggled” the alleged victim said during her time on the stand describing the events. “I don’t think I did because I was so shocked and confused, like some out-of-body experience.” According to both Stadler and the alleged victim, the two were present at Thompson’s house on April 30, 2011 for a day that the Marine Corps Times says “allegedly ended with strip poker, sex, and assault.”
Grimm denied that the day proceeded as described, saying that the two midshipmen did enter Thompson’s house to use the bathroom but left quickly after. Thompson allegedly spend the night with his girlfriend at the time, who is expected to testify later in the court-martial. The Marine faces one count of aggravated sexual assault and indecent acts, for which he faces a potential thirty-year sentence, and three counts of conduct unbecoming an officer.
If the allegations prove to be true, Thompson’s case would be another example of the ongoing trend of sexual assault in the military that has finally reached the attention of the general public. In just the last month, the Air Force’s top official in charge of preventing assaults was charged with sexual battery and a sergeant with a similar position at the battalion was placed under investigation for allegedly forcing a subordinate into prostitution.
The first of these reports came just one day before the Pentagon revealed that an estimated 26,000 instances of sexual assault occurred in 2012, according to its latest report. The military’s sexual assault problem has been kicked up to the highest levels already , with the Pentagon and White House working alongside Congress to help solve the crisis.
President Obama addressed the issue when speaking at the Naval Academy’s commencement last week, saying sexual assault has “no place in the greatest military on Earth.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made similar statements the next day at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal of sacred oaths and sacred trusts,” Hagel said, adding, “This scourge must be stamped out. We are all accountable and responsible for ensuring that this happens. We cannot fail the Army or America.”