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Paula Coughlin
Born 1962 (age 56–57)
Nationality USA
Other names Paula Puopolo
Occupation Naval officer, pilot
Yoga instructor

Paula Coughlin, now also known as Paula Puopolo, was a Lieutenant in the United States Navy. She was a whistleblower who played a role in opening investigations into what was known as the "Tailhook scandal".[1][2][3][4]

Coughlin attended Old Dominion University, where she joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps. She joined the navy in 1984 and became a helicopter pilot.[5]

She attended the Tailhook conference in September 1991, organized by former navy aviators at the Las Vegas Hilton. Many of the attendees got raucously drunk. Coughlin was one of the first female attendees who reported being indecently assaulted by male attendees. Coughlin testified she feared being gang-raped when she was forced to "run the gauntlet".[4] She had reported the incident to senior officers, but after a lack of progress due to "closing ranks and obfuscation" she went public in June 1992.[6] The President, George H.W. Bush, met with Coughlin and expressed sympathy with her and promised a full investigation.[7] Coughlin met with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney—who told her he had just fired the Secretary of the Navy, implying it was her fault.[2] She resigned from the Navy in February 1994, after being subject to abuse in retaliation for her allegations.[8][9] She settled out of court with the Tailhook Association in October 1994, and was awarded $5.3 million in damages from the hotel after a jury concluded that the Las Vegas Hilton hotel had been negligent in not providing adequate security at the Tailhook convention.[8] A May 1995 made-for-television movie broadcast on ABC was based on Coughlin's story, though she was not involved in making it.[3][10][11]

After separating from the Navy, Coughlin married Joe Puopolo and opened a yoga center in Atlantic Beach, Florida.[2]

in 2012, Coughlin was speaking for Protect Our Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights organization that supports victims of sexual assault in the United States military. She also was featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary on the subject, The Invisible War.[12]


  1. Los Angeles Times (1993-04-23). "For Tailhook scandal whistle-blower, wait ends today with release of report". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2010-08-23. "For Lt. Paula Coughlin, the naval aviator who blew the whistle on sexual assaults at the 1991 Tailhook Association, the waiting ends today, when the Defense Department publicly releases its investigation of the now-infamous party in Las Vegas."  mirror
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Knowles, David (2009-04-30). "From Tailhook Whistleblower to Warrior Pose". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mink, Eric (1995-05-22). "Stars brighten 'tailhook'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2010-08-23. "Neither the first woman assaulted at the annual gatherings known as Tailhook conventions, nor the only one assaulted that year, Coughlin was the first to press the issue afterwards and keep pressing until action was taken." 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Noble, Kenneth B. (1994-10-04). "Tailhook Whistle-Blower Recalls Attack". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-23. "'I felt that if I didn't make it off the floor, I was sure I was going to be gang raped,' said the former officer, Paula A. Coughlin, describing the scene at the convention in 1991 of the Tailhook Association, an independent group of retired and active naval aviators. Ms. Coughlin was among several dozen women who Navy investigators determined were groped or fondled by drunken male aviators in a crowded third-floor "gantlet" on the final day of the convention."  mirror
  5. Sherrow, Victoria (1996). Women and the military: an encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 82. 
  6. Boo, Katherine (September 1992). "Universal soldier: what Paula Coughlin can teach American women – sexual assault victim demands justice". Washington Monthly.;col1. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 
  7. Lewis, Neil A. (28 June 1992). "President Meets Female Officer In Navy Incident". New York Times. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Skaine, Rosemarie (1996). Power and gender: issues in sexual dominance and harassment. McFarland. p. 350. ISBN 0-7864-0208-3. 
  9. "Tailhook Case Whistle-Blower Quits Navy". New York Times. 11 February 1994. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 
  10. "She stood alone: The tailhook scandal (made for tv) 1995". Retrieved 2010-08-23. 
  11. Kowalick, Vince (11 May 1995). "TV Producer Brings Personal Insight to the Tailhook Scandal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 August 2010. 
  12. Browning, William, (October 24, 2012). "Jacksonville resident in historic 'Tailhook' military scandal keeps pressure on sex assault issue", Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2013-05-14.

Further readingEdit

  • Zimmerman, Jean. Tail Spin: Women at War in the Wake of Tailhook (1995)

External linksEdit

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