Coast Guard Veteran Alleges Sexual Assault During Drill Weekend

Coast Guard member accuses colleague of sexual assault, sparking scrutiny over the service's handling of such allegations and use of NDAs to silence victims.

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Coast Guard Veteran Alleges Sexual Assault During Drill Weekend

Coast Guard Veteran Alleges Sexual Assault During Drill Weekend

Jesse Phillips, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, has accused a fellow member of sexually assaulting him during a drill weekend in 2022 in New Jersey. Phillips, a Gunner's Mate, claims he was forced to share a hotel bed with an intoxicated colleague who then pinned him down and began "dry humping" him.

The alleged incident occurred when Phillips was sharing a hotel room with four other Coast Guard members. He did not report the assault until January 2023, saying he initially "compartmentalized" what happened. When Phillips did come forward, the Coast Guard interrogated him and his colleagues, searching their lockers and armory for drugs.

The Coast Guard informed Phillips they could not take action against his alleged assailant because the individual was an inactive reservist at the time. Peter Gleason, Phillips' lawyer and a Coast Guard veteran himself, claims the service created a "predatory environment" by forcing members to share beds, leading to "inadequate sleeping arrangements."

Why this matters: The accusations come amid scrutiny of how the Coast Guard handles sexual assault allegations. The service was recently accused of covering up sexual assaults of cadets, prompting the Coast Guard's top admiral to vow reforms.

In response to the allegations, Senator Ted Cruz accused the Coast Guard of illegally silencing and muzzling victims of sexual assault by forcing them to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). The Coast Guard claimed the NDAs were intended to protect the integrity of investigations and the privacy of other victims and witnesses, not to silence victims.

The Coast Guard has since issued guidance clarifying that NDAs do not override whistleblower protections or the right to report waste, fraud, abuse, or danger to public health and safety. The guidance states that past and current members with questions about NDAs can contact CGIS-Legal, and victims of criminal offenses can contact the Coast Guard's Enterprise Victim Advocate.

Phillips' lawyer asserts the Coast Guard's handling of the case and interrogation of Phillips and his colleagues was improper. "The Coast Guard was more concerned about drug use than they were about sexual assault," Gleason said. The Coast Guard has not publicly commented on Phillips' specific allegations.

Key Takeaways

  • Coast Guard member Jesse Phillips alleges sexual assault by colleague in 2022
  • Coast Guard unable to take action as alleged assailant was inactive reservist
  • Coast Guard accused of creating "predatory environment" by forcing shared beds
  • Coast Guard criticized for prioritizing drug use over sexual assault allegations
  • Coast Guard issued guidance on NDAs, clarifying whistleblower protections