News and Commentary

Believe the Victim Campus False Allegations

I Was a Victim of a ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigation

I Was a Victim of a ‘Victim-Centered’ Investigation Trent Cromartie April 10, 2019 I am a former cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In July 2011, during summer training at Camp Buckner, I was taken to the military police station shortly after arriving back from a rigorous field training

Sharing is caring!

I am a former cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. In July 2011, during summer training at Camp Buckner, I was taken to the military police station shortly after arriving back from a rigorous field training exercise. I was dehydrated, sleep deprived, and hadn’t eaten.

I was informed that I had been accused of sexual assault from an alleged incident that had occurred six months before. I then endured a two-year investigation that culminated in a general court martial where I essentially faced life in prison. Although I was found innocent of all the sexual charges, I was kicked out of the Academy in June 2013, the summer preceding my senior year.

While I do not know if West Point had formal victim-centered policies pertaining to sexual assault cases, I believe the Academy engaged in victim-centered practices throughout my investigation.

One of the hallmarks of victim-centered approaches is prioritizing the safety, privacy, and well-being of the “victim.”

Throughout the investigation, my accuser was treated with respect, while I was often treated with hostility. It became apparent early on that my personal well-being was not a priority. My accuser was assigned a victim advocate who escorted her around campus. She was afforded health and welfare checks to ensure that she was coping with the process.

I was never provided such support. In fact, my five-hour initial interrogation took place immediately after a multi-day field training exercise. The investigators essentially took advantage of my weakened state.

While I was afforded a full criminal investigation and trial, it was clear that there was a predetermination of guilt. During my initial interrogation, the interviewing agent was hostile, and used leading questions in an attempt to reshape my statements until they fit his preconceived narrative.

The agent’s questionable conduct was confirmed during the trial by witnesses. In her testimony, one cadet described her interview as a “frustrating and hostile environment.” She testified that “he would ask me what happened, but then he would tell me what to say. I would give an answer, and we would argue with me about my answer…I wanted to get out of there because it was so uncomfortable.” Another cadet stated that “the way [the agent] asked questions was really aggressive. He wouldn’t move on from a subject until he got what he wanted.”

Victim-centered practices often overlook the complainant’s inconsistent or untruthful statements, and attribute such inconsistencies to trauma.

At trial, my accuser committed perjury about the incident, but was later allowed to graduate without punishment. Testifying about the blood she claimed was left in the bedroom after our consensual sexual encounter, my accuser testified, “there were 4 or 5 streaks…24 inches wide, 6 inches deep blood streaks along the side of the bed.” She further testified that her roommates stated that they were “grossed out” by the blood. But all three of my accuser’s roommates denied seeing any blood in the room or making any such statements.

Sexual misconduct investigations are difficult for all parties involved and lives can be ruined if they are not handled properly. This is why it’s important for investigators and adjudicators to treat all parties impartially. Fundamental fairness is a cornerstone of our justice system. But victim-centered practices only focus on the well-being of one individual, the accuser.

The due process rights of accused students have fallen by the wayside because people fail to consider the impact these investigations have on accused individuals. Throughout my investigation I battled severe depression and even suicidal ideations, which continued for years after my investigation. I had to deal with the social stigma attached to my situation because people often presume guilt based on the seriousness of the allegations. I lost a lifelong dream of serving in the Army and the opportunity to finish my degree at a prestigious institution. My friends and family also suffered throughout my ordeal.

Sexual assault investigations should be approached impartially and fairly. While protecting alleged victims is important, it does not mean that we need to compromise the integrity of investigations by providing preferential treatment.

I was lucky to make it out alive. But many individuals don’t have the support network that I had or the resources to combat mishandled investigations. As a society, we should rely on the facts and maintain impartiality because lives are at stake.