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U.S. Naval midshipman says she needed to talk about rape case

By Lacey Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A female midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, who military prosecutors contend was raped by three men in 2012 while intoxicated, said under cross-examination on Friday that she had gone to the media with her story because she felt a need to talk about the experience.

The woman, now a senior at the elite service academy in Annapolis, Maryland, denied defense attorneys' suggestion that an anti-Navy agenda prompted her to speak out on CNN and in an interview with The New York Times.

Friday marked her third day on the witness stand during a preliminary hearing to determine whether the three former members of the academy's football team accused of raping her will face a full court-martial.

The men - Tra'ves Bush, 22; Eric Graham, 21; and Joshua Tate, 21 - are accused of sexually assaulting her last year while she was passed out after drinking at an off-campus party.

The hearing follows a spate of high-profile military sexual assault cases, including some involving personnel whose job it was to prevent sexual abuse.

The woman was questioned repeatedly about her motives for speaking to media outlets in recent months.

"I had been quiet for so long, I was ready to tell everything that I could," she said. "When the media came to me, I literally just wanted to tell my story - my experience."

In 2012, during the early stages of the investigation, the woman said she didn't want the case to go forward and had not been cooperating with investigators.

A day earlier, Bush's attorneys played a recorded conversation between Tate and the woman in which she asked him to lie about the crime because she did not "want this to go anywhere."

The woman, who was a 20-year-old sophomore at the time of the alleged incident, has testified that she did not want to get anyone in trouble.

She has said she feared her mother would force her to leave the highly selective school, which educates Navy and Marine officers. Students are known as midshipmen.

Reuters generally does not report the names of sexual assault victims.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)

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