Nathaniel Penn in GQ:
A warship is like a city—sprawling, vital, crowded with purposeful men and women. But on a warship, as in a city, there are people who will see you not as their friend or their neighbor but rather as their prey.
After turning 25, Steve Stovey joined the Navy to see the world: Malaysia, Australia, Japan, Fiji, the Persian Gulf. His first year and a half as a signalman on the USS Gary was “the greatest time of my life,” he says.
In late September 1999, Stovey was sailing to Hawaii, where he'd be joined by his father on a Tiger Cruise, a beloved Navy tradition in which family members accompany sailors on the final leg of a deployment. Parents and kids get to see how sailors live and work; they watch the crew test air and sea weapons. The Disney Channel even made a movie about a Tiger Cruise, with Bill Pullman and Hayden Panettiere. The West Coast itinerary is usually Pearl Harbor to San Diego.
On the morning of September 20, two weeks before the warship was due in port, three men ambushed Stovey in a remote storage area of the ship, where he'd been sent to get supplies. They threw a black hood over his head, strangled and sodomized him, then left him for dead on a stack of boxes. Stovey told no one. He was certain that his attackers, whose faces he hadn't glimpsed, would kill him if he did. He hid in a bathroom until he could contain his panic and tolerate the pain. Then he quietly returned to his post.