I remember vaguely what happened to me. I don’t remember their names but I do remember their skin and their eyes and their laugh. It doesn’t haunt me anymore, however I sympathize with women who have not found peace and inner healing from the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) associated with MST (military sexual trauma).
PTSD is the most common mental health condition observed among Veterans who report MST. MST appears to be a significant source of traumatic stress among both men and women seeking VA disability for PTSD, where 4.2% of men and 71.0% of women report sexual assault during their military service (Murdoch, Polusny,
Hodges, & O’Brien, 2004).
The three men who assaulted me in September of 1993 were charged and received Article 15 action. I did too. I was charged with underage drinking and being on the male floor. We received equal punishment for different offenses. What had started as a few friends going to the enlisted club at Ft Sam Houston to throw back some beers ended up with me being drugged and sexually assaulted.
It wasn’t the first time or the last.
I admit that I made terrible decisions on this night. In no way am I blaming myself, however here are a number of things that I could have done differently and possibly prevented this action from happening to ME, but not necessarily someone else. These bits of wisdom WILL help others:
- No drinking…whether I was of age or not…whether I was with people I knew or not…NO DRINKING. It clouds our judgment and delays our response to danger
- Always have a battle buddy. When my girlfriends left, I should have left with them.
- Don’t disobey direct orders. I should have never stepped foot on the male floor after leaving the club to go play cards in the barracks with the guys.
- Trust your “fight or flight” instincts. There were moments when I second guessed my decision to be where I was but I disregarded that in favor of drinking more.
I was assaulted on another occasion by an officer who thought he was above the law…and apparently he was. He was a tabbed Ranger and an acquaintance of my husband (now EX husband). This brought a sense of some trust in that my husband vetted him and gave me permission to stay off post with him and his wife when I was on pass in training. So, I did. HUGE mistake. This guy wanted me for himself and he followed me outside and took me around a building in the parking lot of their apartment complex and assaulted me. He laughed at me afterward. This guy…he was a piece of work. He was quick to call my husband and inform him that I was sleeping around and partying. So, I had no grounds to even gain his support because he believed this officer’s word over mine, based on my history of promiscuity. The feeling: ALONE. ISOLATED. CONFUSED…
After the gang rape, the guys drug me upstairs and pushed the door open to my room and shoved me in. My roommates cared enough to call our DI and have me go to sick call. A rape kit was initiated and a lot of testing done. I was not treated as harshly as some of my fellow female soldiers have reported, but I do not believe I received the full care that I needed or the resources to recover. I already had alcoholic tendencies and I dove right in…I was 20 years old.
I refused to “deal” with these incidents. Honestly, I thought these things “just happened” and as the goverment has penned they were simply “occupational hazards” of being a female soldier in a male’s Army. I had been conditioned to believe this. So, I squashed it and tried my best to move on. The problem: my husband didn’t trust me.
His lack of trust coupled with my attitude toward this trauma was the atmosphere for my destruction. I became promiscuous and committed adultery. My husband was in 3rd Ranger Battalion and was deployed A LOT. I was afraid to be alone so I partied A LOT.
In 1996, we divorced. I sought treatment for my alcoholism but didn’t really discuss the sexual assaults. (There were more…) I was diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD due to trauma I had incurred prior to my enlistment. I had full disclosure with my past…just not my present. I don’t know that I was afraid of anything but I just wasn’t sure there was any reason to bring it up especially since I had already been violated and victimized so much in my life.
What I know today is that the enemy had me cornered and was winning this battle. I had no voice of truth in my life and no words of wisdom from anyone. Everyone I surrounded myself with used the same method to deal with problems: DRINK UP and FORGET ABOUT IT! This didn’t work.
I just finished watching the documentary “The Invisible War” and found it so moving. I saw the women as courageous and true warriors for the rights of so many. They stood up for justice. I did not. I salute you ladies. Thank you for having the fortitude to risk persecution and ridicule to see justice served and policies changed. I am so grateful that I have encountered Jesus Christ and that He regenerated my heart, healed my soul and awakened my spirit. There is hope and help available. Please visit: Wounded Warrior Project