Sailor testifies superior sexually assaulted him aboard Canadian destroyer

HALIFAX — A Halifax sailor has told a military court he woke up in his bunk to a superior performing oral sex on him while a navy destroyer was visiting Spain in 2015.

The leading seaman was testifying Wednesday in Halifax at the standing court martial for Master Seaman Daniel Cooper, who is accused of sexual assault and ill treatment of a subordinate.

The man, whose name is protected by a publication ban, said he left HMCS Athabaskan around 10 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2015, to have some drinks with other crew members in Rota, Spain. He said he drank a number of beer throughout the day at a hotel and restaurant and later in the evening he and Cooper returned to the ship in a taxi.

He said the men had a few more drinks in the mess and eventually went to bed around 1 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2015 — but he woke up about three hours later as someone was performing oral sex on him.

“I’m trying to figure out what’s going on. I’m in shock. I’m frozen stiff,” he told the court. ”I’m not sure what to do.”

The man said it was dark and he couldn’t really see, but the person performing the act was repeating a sexual phrase to him, and he recognized the voice to be that of Cooper, a naval communicator at Canadian Forces Base Halifax.

He became emotional in the courtroom as he spoke about fearing for his safety and attempting to alert a crew member in the bunk below him — but he said his pleas for help went unanswered.

“I said, ‘I think I’m getting raped’ … But he didn’t believe me. His response was, ‘You’re drunk and I have duty in a few hours. Go back to bed’,” he said.

The junior sailor eventually told his alleged assaulter, “I’m not gay,” to which he replied, “Oh, sorry,” and left.

The alleged victim said once Cooper left, the sailor in the bunk below him realized he had been telling the truth.

He said that sailor convinced him to report the sexual assault, and his superiors were notified of the alleged incident shortly after it happened.

He told the court he never invited Cooper into his bunk or consented to oral sex.

Cooper has pleaded not guilty to both charges.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Maj. Philippe-Luc Boutin appeared to suggest the oral sex was consensual.

He asked the leading seaman if he remembered becoming aroused while speaking with Cooper near the bunks after they left the mess, and a discussion about sexual activity.

“I’m going to suggest to you … that your account of that night is not the truth,” said Boutin. “You made up a story because it was more convenient for you.”

But the man flatly denied the suggestions in the defence’s line of questioning.

“I was raped,” he said, speaking louder than previously.

Boutin also pointed to inconsistencies in his testimony. He noted that he told the court Wednesday that he was “very drunk” when he went to bed early that morning, but told police days after the incident that he wasn’t that drunk.

Before dismissing the alleged victim, Military Judge Cmdr. Sandra Sukstorf said: “Thank you for coming forward to tell your story.”

The court martial continues Wednesday.

Military commanders have promised to crack down on sexual misconduct in the ranks since retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps reported April 2015 that she had found an “underlying sexual culture” in the military.

Military police received 193 reports of sexual assault in 2017, more than twice the 93 reported in 2014. There have also been more charges, with 44 in 2016 compared to 24 in 2014.

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