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feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

January-22-97

Military Sex Scandal Widens

The Army announced January 21 that it has charged a fourth instructor at Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground with sexual misconduct. Maintenance Instructor U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Theron Brown has been charged with adultery and sodomy involving two female trainees and a female civilian and with violating rules against socializing with students. Brown will face a court-martial and up to six months in prison.

In Charleston, South Carolina, federal court records show that officials at the Citadel military college knew about allegations of sexual harassment made by Jeanie Mentavlos months before she withdrew from the college in January. Mentavlos and Kim Messer, the other female cadet who left the school this month because of sexual harassment, have stated that the Citadel knew about the harassing behavior and failed to put a stop to it. The Citadel has asserted that it responded to the complaints promptly, yet at a January 8 Justice Department oversight hearing on the integration of women at the Citadel, Col. Joseph Trez admitted under cross-examination that he met with Mentavlos’ father in October to hear complaints that Jeanie was experiencing sexual harassment.

Mr. Mentavlos agreed to lessen the charge against a cadet to shoved a piece of cardboard in his daughter’s face because he was told the cadet had a record of “outstanding performance.” Yet in the 13 months previous to the offense, the cadet had been punished for both major and minor violations which Trez dismissed at the hearing as happening “a long time ago.” After the charges against the cadet were downgraded from major to minor violation, the cadet retaliated against Mentavlos by shoving a rifle against her face, causing her to hit her head against a wall, and forced her to hold the rifle in front of her while in tears.

Valorie K. Vojdik, lawyer for the women who sued to gain admittance to the Citadel, and lawyers for Mentavlos and Messer say the Citadel’s failure to stop the harassment is indicative of a larger pattern of negligence on the part of the school toward protecting the women cadets. The lawyers maintain the state has appropriated no extra money to aid in the process of assimilating the women into the formerly all-male college. The state supported the Citadel’s fight against coeducation.

Media Resources: The Associated Press - January 22, 1997; The Washington Post - January 22, 1997; The Nando Times - January 22, 1997


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