Chaplain (Maj.) Geoffrey Alleyne pleaded guilty in a military court to charges that include assault and battery against a civilian employee on Fort Bliss, making a false official statement and conduct unbecoming an officer. He was sentenced to six months of confinement June 19. Also shown is Chaplain (Maj.) Gary Studniewski (foreground). (Quentin Hunstad)
The victim of a Fort Bliss, Texas, chaplain who groped and licked her, Michelle Ten Eyck, is saying the Army mistreated her.
The 42-year-old Army contractor was vindicated in court last month, as her tormentor, Maj. Geoffrey Alleyne, pleaded guilty in a military court to charges that include assault and battery against a civilian employee on Fort Bliss, making a false official statement and conduct unbecoming an officer. He was sentenced to six months of confinement June 19.
“There was no protection for me in the system, and I was constantly revictimized,” Ten Eyck told Army Times in a tearful June 26 interview. “Plea deals are done, and we have no say.”
Ten Eyck said she received no comfort from the sentence, which she characterized as “a slap on the wrist.” The ordeal, she said, has left her emotionally and physically spent.
“I’m tired, because this took such a toll on me, on my family,” the mother of six said. “You can only be beat up so many times before you go crazy.”
Ten Eyck said if she had to do it again, she would not report the case. She said she was retaliated against by her chain of command after she reported the assault.
“I would never, ever, ever report again because it was miserable,” Ten Eyck said. “After I reported, the post chaplain and his deputy asked just once if I was OK, ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ and that was it.”
Army Times does not typically identify victims of sexual assault. But Ten Eyck came forward in the interest of helping other victims.
For several months, Alleyne had found excuses to visit Ten Eyck at her office, where he would make sexual overtures and grope her, she said. But Ten Eyck did not report Alleyne to her chain of command at first because she had problems with a co-worker and felt she would not be believed.
“My priest, a chaplain also, said nobody will believe you; he’s a chaplain, he’s an officer,” Ten Eyck said. “Here you are a little lowly contractor accusing a major of sexual assault.”
Alleyne was the 15th Sustainment Brigade chaplain.
Ten Eyck said she only told her immediate supervisor, a chaplain, which inspired her to set up a hidden video camera to capture Alleyne’s behavior.
“In the two videos they have, he was touching my breasts, he was stroking my arm and he was licking my face,” she said. “It was horrible. It’s a sad state of affairs in the armed forces when you feel like without tons of proof, you can’t come forward because no one’s going to believe you, especially when you’re going against the officer corps.”
After reporting the incident, she said one of the only officials to help her was Phillip Martin, a range security specialist at the post. Martin said Ten Eyck was mistreated by co-workers who ostracized her, equal opportunity officials who initially would not consider her complaint of sexual harassment, and her chain of command, which gave her a counseling statement in the wake of her report of assault.
“We need senior leaders taking charge, not a good-old-boy system,” Martin said. “It’s a toxic environment when someone doesn’t trust her chain of command.”
She and Martin say only when she went to the garrison commander, Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, was she taken seriously. Martin said he learned in court that Pittard had since reprimanded one of Ten Eyck’s superiors, and another had been reassigned.
The case comes after the Senate Armed Services Committee has rejected legislation proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., which would have sidelined military commanders in sexual assault cases. The committee approved a plan supported by military leaders that subjects commanders to a review process if they choose not to prosecute a sexual assault case.
Ten Eyck said Congress must take sexual assault outside of the chain of command.
“Outside of the military would take care of it,” she said. “What I encountered was they were on his side, and ‘How dare she attack a chaplain; a chaplain would never do this.’ ”
The Fort Bliss Chaplain Corps has since apologized for the incident and resulting breach of trust, saying Alleyne does not represent the corps’ or the Army’s values.
“Chaplains have benefited from that generous trust to provide Religious Support to the Army, and all incidents that tarnish that relationship are challenges to our mission,” Lt. Col. Karen Meeker, a chaplain, said in a statement. “ We sincerely hope that the victims receive the support they deserve and the help they need through the process of healing and recovery.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said the problem cannot be solved with training alone.
“I believe the most important thing is the interaction,” he said. “Dialogue to recognize this problem from everybody’s point of view, that’s a first step.”