Movement Leader for Arizona
I have some short term memory loss and do not really remember who I was before the military. But a few things I will always remember: I was goofy, loud, and bubbly. I was very involved in my school. I played various sports and had a lot of friends and acquaintances. I was also very active in my church, where I was in the choir. I was excited to graduate high school and leave for the Army. Admittedly, I was a little cocky too, I was the only one of my friends joining the military. I was proud of my decision to become a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare specialist soldier. I was ready to go.
I went to basic training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood. My first duty station was Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. I would later change my MOS upon re-enlistment, becoming a Commo Specialist. I then went to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, ending my time in service at Fort Bliss, Texas. I was honorably discharged in June 2018, exactly 8 years after I went to basic training. It was at my first duty station, Joint Base Lewis McChord, where I experienced Military Sexual Trauma. I was 19 years old.
The night I was assaulted, my life was forever changed. I went to an NCO (non-commissioned officer)’s house. He was always buying alcohol for all of the underaged soldiers and would throw these big parties. That night, I got convinced to go over there. I had originally planned on staying in and playing games. People were surprised to see me there, and I nervously began to drink. I was not in my element and I was nervous. I had only drank alcohol one other time before this. I took some jager bombs and drank other types of liquor: I don’t really remember what I drank because there was such a variety and I was so inexperienced. I felt like I was in a place that I didn’t belong. I wasn’t a drinker, I was never that cool in social settings, and I was nervous about being there. I kept drinking to make up for those feelings.
I started feeling tipsy. A friend of mine pulled me outside and told me to stay away from the NCO supplying all of the alcohol. I shrugged off her concerns. I kept drinking and I started acting silly and stumbling all over the place, basically making an ass of myself. I sat down next to him and was leaning on him, falling asleep because I was pretty drunk. He got up and started giving me more alcohol, beer, more jager bombs...whatever he could find, it seemed. My friend, who was on pain meds at the time and getting sleepy herself, was trying to give me water but he was taking it from me when she wasn’t looking. He sat down next to me and started kissing me, and everyone else quickly left the room, leaving my sleeping friend on the couch.
He took me upstairs. One thing led to another and everything was moving too fast. I did not feel like I could leave because people were there and I was dizzy, drunk, and could barely stand up. I woke up several times through the night, very drunk and very confused, to him touching me to wake me up to have sex again. It happened 3 or 4 times and finally he was done, passed out and I got up the courage to leave that room finally the next morning. I was laughed at by everyone who was there and there was a guy texting everyone in my unit as it was happening. I laughed it off because I did not know what else to do. I hitched a ride with my friend and went back to the barracks wondering what I was going to do, trying to remember everything that happened. It would come back in bits and pieces later.
I learned later that he had been talking about doing that to me, and joking with all of his buddies. I was in the dark about the whole thing, but with time some light was shed on the truth. He had been messaging me on facebook, saying random and weird stuff to me. I didn’t make any connections until after it happened, because in the messages before he always seemed drunk and I didn’t think much of it. But one time he messaged me, telling me that he raped his friend and made someone watch. My only response was “k.” I blamed myself for not seeing the signs. I could not believe I did not see it before. I was confused, I was ashamed, and I was embarrassed. Before this assault, I was already a loner and ostracized from this unit: I was a slow runner, socially awkward, and goofy, which made me a natural target for their teasing. Because of this, I was already pretty shy among my peers, but after my assault, I shut myself out completely. I stopped taking care of myself, and I would shut myself away in my barracks room on weekends because I couldn’t bear to show my face.
Everyone in my unit had heard something about what happened that night, and I was labeled a drunken slut. I knew I wasn’t, but hearing it every day made it hard for me to believe that I deserved better. It was a constant. On the outside, I was laughing and joking but on the inside I had thoughts of running into traffic or taking bottles of pills. I decided, in my pain, that I had to report this. It became clear to me that he was experienced in this, he had a plan, and he knew what he was doing. He raped me, and what I was experiencing in the workplace added even more trauma as I worked through what had happened to me.
After I reported this rape, the alienation in my unit got much, much worse.
My own NCO’s questioned me and my SHARP Representative made it clear that they thought the entire thing was a joke, even though there were other victims. I was still forced to work with him even after the legal process started. Every day I had to see my rapist’s smiling face as the rest of our unit treated me like I was the problem.
Eventually my rapist was court martialed and was sentenced to 33 months in the brig and was made to register with the National Sex Offender Registry: Level 2 for the other victims but all he got for me was assault and battery, nothing that would go on the registry. I may have gotten some justice, but nothing will replace the trauma and humiliation of this experience.
Later on, I did move to a different unit and met some pretty amazing people who believed me, and helped me find ways to enjoy life again. This made me feel better about speaking out and made me realize I did not need to stay silent.
My views about the military had already been soured but after that I realized not everyone you serve with has good intentions and not everyone will take care of you. I thought I would make friends and would have character-building experiences in my military service, but I ended up hated and a target for some pretty cruel behavior.
I am a part of the Military Sexual Trauma Movement (MSTM) because I’ve been called a liar for this nightmare I never asked for. I was also retaliated against for this nightmare I never asked for. I have gone through far too much suffering, and I want to show others who may have experienced similar things that it’s not their fault, and they aren’t alone. Not all rapists are just a random bad guy hiding in the bushes, waiting to pounce. Rapists often prey on someone they know, and they specialize in confusing their victims into silence. I may have been young, I may have been drunk, but I never deserved to be raped. But now I will share my truth, I won’t be silenced, and I will help people who have been where I’ve been.
My journey to joining the MSTM began with a letter I wrote to my Arizona Senator Martha McSally regarding her poor representation of veterans, even though she is one. That letter continues to go unanswered, and in my frustration regarding my poor representation, I found and signed MSTM’s petition to #StopSelloutMcSally in her damaging remarks regarding the credibility of a fellow MST survivor. I quickly realized that my values and mission to #endMST were one in the same with the Military Sexual Trauma Movement. I have joined a group of strong and experienced service members as we fight for better rights for all our community.
Since joining the MIlitary Sexual Trauma Movement, I have travelled to Washington, D.C. to request my Senator Martha McSally to reconsider her statements regarding other MST survivors, I’ve interviewed with the Federalist newspaper about my experiences with online sexual harassment, and I attended a protest outside the USMC Commandant’s house. I am committed to activism and lobbying to better fight for veteran’s rights, specifically for survivors of MST.