As a child, seeing men and women in uniform, either in-person or on TV, I thought, “Wow, I want to grow up and be just like them.” Thoughts that came to mind were about how strong and brave they were, and how much you looked up to them for protecting you. They were real-life superheroes. That was my main motivation to join the military. Growing up, I lived in the suburbs with my parents and older brother, and life was good. Throughout grade school, I struggled with my self-esteem and self-confidence and felt a little like an outcast. My only main clique was my softball team. In my senior year in 2011, I knew that I didn’t want to go to college because of the social experiences, but my parents didn’t give me a choice. So, I enlisted to be a soldier in the United States Army. This was the biggest decision I had made. My parents supported me 110%.
I turned 18 and a week later I was shipped off to Basic Training. After completing Basic Training, you felt like you were on top of the world. You felt like you were the strongest person, not only physically, but also mentally, and that nothing or no one could knock you down. I had never felt so accomplished.
After graduation, I got sent to my AIT. I was in Air Defense Artillery. The females were outnumbered quite dramatically. My AIT barracks were next to the barracks of another AIT, so we would hang out together and I had a few friends from that AIT, including one male friend in particular. We started chatting and eventually hanging out. We would go to the mall, movies – just simple, fun things to get away from school for a little bit on the weekends. I wouldn’t call him my boyfriend, yet he’d asked me multiple times to be his girlfriend. I wasn’t ready for a relationship. He was great to spend time with and really seemed like he cared a lot. I would tell him about things from my past, and he would listen intently.
On the weekends, we would have overnight passes, which would let you sign out with a battle buddy. One night over MLK weekend, my battle buddy and I rented a hotel room with this male friend off-post for one night, so we didn’t have to stay cooped up in the barracks. I wasn’t expecting anything significant to happen. But one night, when our battle buddies were gone, something did happen. We were cuddling, which led to kissing and touching, and penetration. We were going for about one minute and then I just stopped. I started freaking out and crying. I said, “I can’t do this. I’m not ready yet. I think it’s too soon.” I just didn’t feel right. I had finally found a great person and didn’t want him to get a bad impression of me or for him to get any different ideas of what I wanted. He stopped as well, saying that it was okay. He was very caring and understanding and just held me until we went to bed. I was blown away. This showed that he actually cared about my feelings. Well, so I thought.
A couple weeks later, we decided to get another room at a hotel on post. There were about 5 rooms all around my room having parties that night with only AIT soldiers. Everyone was drinking. I drank but was just a little tipsy. As I mentioned before, in ADA, males outnumber females. So, of course, there were a lot of males at the party. I considered them all of my brothers and battle buddies.
I was also talking to a lot of other people and he started getting jealous. That whole night, he kept pulling me to the side and talking to me. Most of the time he was upset. He took me to random places like the bathroom, stairwell, hallway, and outside to get privacy so he could speak to me alone. I could tell he was very drunk.
He got angrier as the night went on. It was around 03:00, and I was ready for bed. I was in my bed with my friend sitting in a chair next to me, watching a movie. I was almost asleep when we heard a knock on the door. My friend answered the door, and he said he wanted to talk to me again. My friend walked out of the room.
He pulled me out of bed and took me to a closet. I asked what he wanted to talk about, assuming it would be like all of the other times and I would be able to go straight back to bed afterwards. As he pulled me into the closet, he remained silent. I thought this weird because he was acting differently. He started to kiss me. I pulled away and tried asking him again. He did not answer me. He started kissing me while holding me against the wall. I kept asking him what he wanted to talk about, trying to get a response out of him. He said nothing that whole time we were in the closet. He didn’t stop when I told him to, or when I started crying, or when I pushed back. I felt I had no control over any part of my body or mind. It was almost like an out of body experience.
My good friend said he had heard me from his room and came to see what was going on. He saved me and got me out of that closet. My last memory was stumbling out of that closet and him yelling, punching the headboard, and storming out. The next week, I avoided thinking about it. There were rumors flying that I had sex with 5 men that night, but my friends knew the truth. Someone eventually reported the incident to CID, so I came clean with it. The case went unrestricted from February 2012 to December 2012. It went from hours and hours of being interviewed in CID to the Article 32 court hearing and court martial on December 22, 2012.
He was found not guilty for the assault. He was found guilty for smoking spice and conspiracy to cover up a crime. He and his friend made a plan to lie to CID about what happened. He got in trouble for covering it up, but was not guilty for the sexual assault. Being cross-examined by the defense was the scariest thing I have ever had to experience. My dad flew down to support me, which made things much better, but the outcome of the trial made things worse. My assailant was discharged with a bad conduct discharge. The jury consisted of three CSMs, three colonels, and a SSG.
The Army said they want to stop the sexual assault epidemic, but nothing significant is being done. Since my assault, I have been switched from two different units. I was being harassed for what had happened to me. I was on anti-depressants, anxiety medication, and seeing two therapists, a counselor, a psychiatrist, and a nurse who calls me once a week. I then started trying to get out of the Army since this happened to me in AIT.
Everyone told me that it was going to get better, but my Army experience was only getting worse. Everyone says that I am a survivor, but really, I feel like a victim. I was a victim of what this person did and a victim of humiliation from the trial. I wish I could have a more positive story to tell.
However I am now a witness in my best friend’s current case now. I am thankful that I now have the tools and knowledge to help her. In November 2013, I was honorably discharged from the Army, after months and months of asking to please let me out. I am currently attending community college.