Dana’s Story

Dana’s Story

When I was 19 years old, I was in the Army and stationed in South Korea. My job was clerical. So every soldier would usually come into my office at least once during their 1-year assignment. There were always male soldiers asking me to go down range (downtown). I was always wise and would take a battle buddy (a fellow female soldier). I had been stationed there about eight months, and an aviation soldier came in to get an ID card. He asked me to go down range and, like every other time, I asked a battle buddy to go with me. He was a gentleman. Very respectful. Opened up the doors. Walked me to the door. Gave me a hug and did not attempt to do anything else. We started hanging out more and more in the next two months. I felt very comfortable with him. I felt like he was a true friend.

It had been two months since our first hang out when he came into my office. He asked me to come over to his barracks that night to watch a football game. I did not give it a second thought, so I made plans to go to his room that night. I felt comfortable with him, so I went alone. I knocked on the door, and I heard someone say, “Come in.” I proceeded to open the door and went in. Once I was in the room, I saw there were about 12 male soldiers in the room. I got a knot in the pit of my stomach. I felt like this was not a good idea. But in like 30 seconds, I convinced myself that it was okay: “He is a nice guy. He won’t let anything happen. They are my fellow soldiers. They got my back in combat. They won’t let anything happen.” I went around the bunks in front of me, grabbed a beer and sat on one of the bunks.

After about an hour, I heard someone yell, “LOCK THE DOOR.” I looked over at the door, which two soldiers had locked and blocked with their bodies. I realized that was not good. I got up and was ready to fight my way to the door. All of a sudden, one of the guys hit me in my mouth. I fell back and partially blacked out. I realized that there were 12 of them and one of me. For the next 90 minutes, I was gang raped by all 12 guys. I continued to yell and scream when I could, but not enough to stop them from hitting me again. Once they raped me, they threw me outside, naked, with my clothes in a pile beside me.

I did the best I could to get my clothes together and tried to get dressed as fast as I could. I heard the barracks door open, and I was trying to get myself together. A male soldier came over and was “helping” me get dressed, handing me my clothes and holding me up as I got dressed. I started walking the half mile to my barracks, and this same male soldier walked with me. At this moment, I was totally confused: “Why is this guy helping me?” “Did he not hear me yelling and screaming?” I soon realized, as we walked by the hospital and police station, that he was making sure that I did not report this. He walked me all the way to my barracks, turned around, and left never saying a word to me.

He had nothing to worry about. I had no plans of reporting this. I blamed myself for going in that room (like I was giving them permission to do whatever they wanted because I walked in). I blamed myself for having a beer (in my head, I was giving them permission as soon as I opened that beer). Plus, I knew that if I pressed charges, I would be stuck at that base until after the court hearing. At that point, I had less than 60 days until I was heading home for 30 days and to my next duty station. All I wanted to do was leave Korea, go home, and cry in my own bed until it was time to go to my next duty station. That is exactly what I did. And I told no one at that point.

I had distanced myself from the gang rape. I was so disconnected from my body that I did not realize what had happened to me. About three months after the gang rape, I was at my next duty station and had gone to get my annual OB/GYN exam. It was at that time that I found out I had venereal warts. After the gang rape, I made little effort to connect with my body and acknowledge that anything was wrong. After finding this out, I had to go for weekly treatment to get the warts burned off. Every week for the next six weeks, I was reminded of what had happened to me.

I grew so angry at those men for giving me an STD. I had hoped that the first guy who raped me was the one who gave me venereal warts and that somehow, all of the other guys had gotten it. That is how angry and bitter I was about it. It took me a long time to come to peace with the fact that I contracted an STD.

This sexual trauma happened 27 years ago, yet it still impacts me to this day. I have a hard time being in crowds or in a room where I can’t see the door. Because I do not remember what anyone looked like, going to the VA hospital is a struggle for me, I wonder if any of my assailants go to that same VA.

Healing from this has been a daily effort. I have been able to get to a healthy place in my healing process and can now speak publicly about the sexual trauma and my healing process.