Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by expressing my deepest gratitude for the continued efforts of Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Senator Susan Collins, to produce nationwide changes in policies regarding the reporting procedures of sexual assault and rape in the United States Military. I would also like to thank Nancy Parish, the president of “Protect Our Defenders” organization, and the entire staff for assisting veterans like myself in sharing our story. It is because of the dedication of these individuals that I am able to feel safe again knowing that change is just around the corner.
The continued and growing epidemic of rape and sexual assault in the military is neither a new or uncommon story. In fact, according to the 2012 Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Annual Report, “the number of sexual assault incidents skyrocketed 34.5% from 19,300 assaults in 2011 to 26,300 in 2012”. The report further states that victims reporting rates have dropped, conviction rates have dropped as well. FEAR is what oftentimes defers one from reporting.
I am an intelligent and articulate, Magna cum Laude, College Graduate and a mother of three. I am a woman who held her family together while my husband, a three time combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, left for combat. I have volunteered over 200 hours of service to the Marine Corps over the last few years while attending college as a full time student and maintaining a full time job.
I am a United States Marine. I am a woman who will stand in the face of adversity and fight when everyone else runs away. I served my country honorably and my family and I have continued to serve this country with honor and pride through our sacrifice. So I ask you, what is it that I have to be afraid of? As a woman, as a mother, as a Marine, what is it that could deter someone like me from reporting sexual assault or rape?
My name is Stacey Thompson and I am a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma. I joined the United States Marine Corps at age 17, in August of 1998. I reported for my first duty station in Okinawa, Japan. A few months after arriving in Okinawa I reported to my chain of command that I was being sexually harassed by my Staff Sergeant. This man persistently made unwanted advances entering my barracks room after morning PT while I was in the shower. Once I reported the sexual harassment to my command they transferred me to another unit within the same Battalion. However, this Staff Sergeant was never charged with sexual harassment nor was he reprimanded by the command.
On the night of December 9, 1999 I was raped by another male Sergeant from my new unit, after he drugged me and took me without my consent to his barracks room. This Sergeant abandoned me at 4am the next morning (Dec. 10th, 1999) in front a local night club, forcefully pushing me out of the car onto the ground, and driving back to base, leaving me there alone in the street. I called my roommate, reported being raped; she sent a male friend of hers to pick me up. I was taken back to my barracks; when I showed up for work that morning, I again reported the rape to my female Sergeant. She advised me to go home and assured me she would “take care of it”. Nothing was done and that weekend I was admitted to the Naval Hospital. After being put on medication and bed rest I returned to work the following Thursday, December 16, 1999. To my surprise my female Sergeant had tried to cover up the allegations and failed to report the rape to my chain of command.
I told another male Marine what happened that morning and that Marine then reported it. I filed a report of rape with the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) and within weeks of the initial investigation I was again transferred to another unit. I did not feel as though anyone was taking my allegations seriously, so I sent a copy of my statement to NCIS regarding the rape, to my parents in New York. My mother contacted the local Congressman’s office. However, still feeling as though this matter was not being handled appropriately by my chain of command, I requested mast to the Commanding General of the base. I found out, not long after the investigation had been opened up against my sergeant for rape, he was permitted to separate from the Marine Corps in lieu of trial by court martial, while the case was ongoing.
I then became the target of an investigation for drug use, stemming from the night I was raped. It has been clear to me for 14 years that the investigation was without a shadow of a doubt, retaliation for reporting the rape.
I was separated from the Marine Corps on June 30th, 2000 with an Other Than Honorable Discharge. I lost my Veteran benefits, I lost my GI Bill, and I suffered through years of severe Post Traumatic Stress as a direct result of Military Sexual Trauma. I have filed a disability claim with the Department of Veterans Affairs; after all these years I finally found the strength and courage to break my silence.
I recently began the process of petitioning for a disability compensation. Just yesterday I attended a hearing to present valid and factual information to prove that I served honorably. While in service on active duty I attended college, volunteered as a mentor with young Marines program, and received proficiency and conduct scores that met with the standards for above average and excellent.
I am a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma. This is my story; I hope to inspire others to tell their stories so we can put an end to sexual assault in the Military. Although some people have gone to the great lengths to keep us quiet, it is my hopes that sharing my story will inspire you to believe that this is not a military issue, rather an issue of humanity. We would not ask a teacher who was sexually assaulted or raped to report it to the principal, simply because that is the process of “the chain of command”.
I asked you earlier to consider what it might be that would defer a service member from reporting sexual assault. I ask that you please remember my story and the stories of 26,300 veterans just like me that have to rely on the very same people sworn to protect and defend us, are sometimes the ones who violate and betray us. I believe wholeheartedly that in my situation, if the process of reporting the rape had been handled completely outside the chain of command, it would have allowed me to see my rapist convicted and not able to separate from the Military after I reported that he raped me.
I decided to be here today on behalf of every veteran who was ever afraid to share their story. I am speaking out today on behalf of every service member who was in fear of reporting sexual assault for fear of retaliation. I have been given this opportunity to share my story, to be the voice of all those who have yet to come forward. Thank you to everyone who continues to fight for change through their actions and support of our veterans… For women. For mothers and for Marines, like me.