Deborah’s Story

Deborah’s Story

I will start by saying I loved serving in the military for almost two decades and had planned to remain past my retirement year of 2008. My problems began prior to my 2006 sexual assault by my Battalion Command Sergeant Major (CSM). My military life as I knew it changed as soon as my CSM arrived in 2004.  He began by sexual harassing me with unwelcomed comments and physical advances.  Yes, I reported the incidents, but they were quickly ignored or dismissed by my entire chain of command and the military justice system. I dealt with this day after day, hating to go to work and eventually developing ill feelings about the military.

On April 29, 2006, I was detailed to transport my Battalion CSM to the airport. I had done this before without any incidents, but to my surprise, his spouse wasn’t home when I arrived for the airport departure. He sexually assaulted me in his home.  I still took him to the airport and I then made a restricted report of the sexual assault. My chain of command alleged the assault to be consensual. To this day, I do not understand why I took him to the airport – it was my duty and he was my Battalion CSM. Regardless, he had no right to sexually harass or assault me.

I went to counseling for severe depression and PTSD, but was never removed from his unit. In 2007, he closed the door to his office and pushed me against the door and forcibly pressed his body against mine and stroked my breast. I had had enough. I went to my Battalion Commander and told him I couldn’t take anymore and informed him of what had happened and the past incident. I informed the Brigade S1 and Brigade CSM and requested to be removed from the chain of command. My military career and life became a living hell from that point on, which led me to go unrestricted with the report because I felt I needed some serious help.

Everyone turned on me, including the legal system that was supposed to be there to protect me. My security clearance and NCOER was denied processing. Then, I was being medically boarded after 19 years and 6 months. Since I didn’t trust anyone in the command or the military legal system, I hired an out-of-town attorney who knew military law. He cost me a great deal of money, but it was worth every cent because I fought to retire at 20 years. I was removed from the unit but to a unit in which the same Battalion Commander and Battalion CSM had authority over me. Finally, I was moved to another unit in which the Brigade Commander and CSM had authority, which was a no-win situation. They implied I had filed the complaint to avoid deployment. Deployment was the least of my worries because I felt like I was already deployed and fighting my enemies on friendly grounds. When the Pentagon and FORSCOM came to interview me, I was treated as though I had sexually assaulted my Battalion CSM. His “punishment” was retirement— with full benefits.

I left the military at 20 years after fighting for it; however, I did not receive a retirement award, ceremony, NCOER, or have a security clearance. In other words, the way I envisioned leaving the military with the honors I deserved for being a great soldier and NCO was taken away for reporting a predator. I was harassed and assaulted over and over again by the very leaders who where supposed to be trained to defend and protect me.