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.
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. 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. Stovey says he might have killed himself were it not for his father's imminent arrival.
The timing of the visit was "almost a miracle," he says.
"When I saw him, it was the most safe feeling I'd ever felt in my whole life." Father and son spent the next five days on board ship, almost certainly being watched by the three attackers.
"I just kept it inside," Stovey says in a low voice.
"I couldn't tell him." The moment a man enlists in the United States armed forces, his chances of being sexually assaulted increase by a factor of ten.
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.