I entered boot camp in October of 2014, excited and thrilled to enlist. I come from a family of immigrants. No one in my family had ever served in the military. In boot camp, Recruit Training Commanders (RDCs) are entrusted with teaching future sailors the necessary skills to enter military life. During processing days in which blood samples and vaccinations are done in order to ensure healthy sailors are entering the fleet, I managed to stay under the radar of the ever-watchful eyes of my RDCs.
However, one day after an unsuccessful attempt at drilling in which I blundered because of my two left feet, I inadvertently caught the eye of my first and most senior RDC. He hazed me everyday until my knees were black, blood poured into my steel-toed boots, and I cringed just seeing his face. Little did I know that this man was capable of far more then making me do 100 push-ups in a row. It began with drills in which we would stand at attention for hours. Uniform inspections were commonplace, but rather than check my shoelaces or blousing straps, he groped my breasts and buttocks. At first, I thought that this was normal. I asked others in the women’s restroom (the only place we were allowed to speak in) if he had done the same to them. The answer was a resounding no. Soon the gropings became much more forceful and if I moved so much as an inch while he grabbed any part of me, I was soon punished far more than any other woman in the division. I was ostracized from the division. The other girls were lead to believe that I was a “cancer” and no one should speak to me because I was a bad influence. My first RDC continued to haze me for weeks. My knees were so horribly blackened that I found it impossible to stand at attention for which I received even more punishment.
I finally had the courage to say something during our first test. I was told by an OSC that my report would be 100 percent confidential. I reported my first RDC and one day, while the rest of my division was doing physical fitness, I left by myself for a dentist appointment. My first RDC knew I would be alone and cornered me in the stairwell. I tried to scream, but no one heard my cries for help. He hurled insults at me and destroyed me with every horrific word. He called me a fat loser whom no one would ever love. I cried, realizing that the report I made was never anonymous. The OSC told my first RDC everything that I had said. My first RDC faced no charges whatsoever and I was kept in his division.
From that day on, my life became hell on earth. Once after getting my dinner, I made the mistake of leaning against the wall. My first RDC slapped my food abruptly out of my hands. I wasn’t allowed to eat that night. When I was finally allowed to call my family, my first RDC always stayed near me and cut my calls short. My first RDC looked through every package I received and unlike the rest of the trainees who were allowed to keep family photos, I had to throw mine away. During drills, my first RDC groped and hazed me even harder than I thought was possible. My first RDC threatened to send me for discharge everyday. I was once forced to stand at attention for two hours in his office while he told me I was crazy and had deep psychological problems. I tried to file a grievance form, only to find out that grievance forms were only given out by the RDCs themselves as yet another method of controlling reports.
When I left boot camp, I was no longer the happy ambitious sailor I once was. I was tainted and broken beyond repair. My first command did nothing when I asked for treatment. I become suicidal and was taken off the ship, only to return to rumors that I had lost my mind. I finally reported my sexual assault , but rather than being diagnosed with PTSD, I was diagnosed with a military adjustment disorder, which the Navy coincidentally pays no disability benefits for.
I push papers all day now. The Navy does not want to acknowledge that one of its own has committed something so horrific. I joined to see the world. Now, I await my involuntary discharge while my attacker goes on, hurting more women in boot camp. I have not told my family I joined the military against their advice and don’t want them to be ashamed of me. My experience in boot camp hurts me everyday. I tried to schedule a psychological evaluation, only to be told it takes four months to receive an appointment. The waiting list is that long. The treatment that I so desperately need will come out of my own paycheck.