I was valedictorian of my high school, a lacrosse player and dancer. I was confident, courageous and optimistic about my future and had the honor of an appointment at the US Naval Academy. My time there ravaged my self-esteem, violated my body and destroyed my mind. I quit after 1 1/2 years, realizing that failure was my victory to begin getting my life back. But it has continued until here I am now, age 40, still reeling from a severe eating disorder and accompanying trauma.
The harassment began immediately at the Academy, during plebe summer, which was stressful for all of us, male and female, given the intensity of physical exercise and being screamed at. To add to it, I was isolated by a bunch of male upperclassmen, privately made to do push-ups while they made comments such as, “You are making me horny, Ms. ____.” They got in my face, wiping their sweat on my arms and legs. It made me sick, but I thought I had to toughen up and that the hazing was legitimate. I refused to flirt with some peers, so they put beers in my locker or ratted me out for being a few minutes late, upon which I would get 30 days restriction and miss Thanksgiving with my family. A male science teacher I wouldn’t flirt with tried to turn me in for cheating. Our company commander was a misogynist who never talked to me because “girls didn’t have anything valuable to say.” I remember waking up with a peer on my bed, watching me sleep. I started to scream and he pinned me down and covered my mouth. I did report him but did any leaders ask me how I was or give me counseling or interview me beyond that? No. No follow up. No support.
One night, a drunk upperclassman from my last company stumbled into my room. He locked the door and pinned me to the floor, kissing me and pulled down my pants. He started to shove his fingers inside me and I started to scream, but felt frozen. I felt the hard cold floor and thought about being surrounded by a bunch of boys and men who didn’t want me there and I was not going to let them ruin my life and career. So I fought him off and threatened to tell if he didn’t leave. So he left and I stupidly kept my promise. Being stripped of my decency and self-esteem has destroyed my life in many ways. It’s destroying my marriage as I write. It’s destroyed my body from a 20-year eating disorder. Now I will begin to speak and I have realized, maybe too belated, my story may help other victims come forward to tell theirs.