I joined the Active Duty Army in September of 1993 to serve my country, earn money for college and make a career out of being a soldier. I was 17.
Six months after joining, I was given my first set of orders and I was headed to Germany. I ended up in a small unit on an almost desolate Army post in Nuernberg-Fuerth, Germany. My first week there, I was told I would need to purchase a hot plate and some pots if I wanted to cook. There was no chow hall. I had not yet received my paycheck from the Army, so my Staff Sergeant took me to the finance office to talk to a male Specialist about my paycheck. The Specialist and I made small talk, such as that he is from the same town that I am. Small world, I thought, and I felt I had made a new friend.
That evening, I went to a “club” in the larger city of Nuernberg after being invited by some people in my unit. The Specialist from earlier in the day was at this club with his wife. We said hello. After about an hour, he asked me to come outside with him because he needed to tell me something about my paycheck. He walked me to the side of the building and up three stories of a fire escape. I began to sit on a step and he stopped me and began to kiss me. I resisted and he turned me around, aggressively kicked my legs apart, and began to force himself on me. I could not breathe because he had bent me over the iron railing, and the railing was pressing against my diaphragm. I found an opportunity to push away and run down the fire escape back to safety, but he grabbed me and threw me onto the stairs. I saw no other alternative than to try to climb over the railing to get away, but before I could, he pushed me. I fell all the way down and woke up what seemed like a few minutes later. I grabbed the back of my skirt and quickly got into a taxi. When I got home, I worried that the soldiers I had gone with to this club had no idea where I had gone.
The next morning, I “fell out” of a physical training run because of major back pain, cervical pain and bleeding. I told another female soldier what had happened to me. She told me I was a liar and there was no way the Specialist would do what he did to me because she knows him personally. She told my Staff Sergeant, and he advised me I was not to say another word about it. When I went to sick call that day, I told the Major, an 0-4 (he was a doctor) what had happened. He wrote something in my chart pertaining to my claims of sexual assault, but called no one. I was expecting MP’s, military police. I was sent back to my unit on a profile (a medical exception from Physical Training) for a few days for my back pain.
That afternoon, as I entered my room in the barracks, the Specialist/rapist was in my room. I have no idea how he got in. He told me he thought I could have AIDS. He demanded I get an AIDS test and show him the results. I was frozen in fear. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone. I had told a female sergeant by then, who told her male NCOIC. He met with me privately and said “I know what you are claiming, and all this talk about rape just needs to be over or it’s gonna get you in trouble”.
I went to sick call the next day and asked for an AIDS/HIV test so the Specialist/rapist would leave me alone. I was so scared of him. At the hospital, they asked me why I wanted this test since I had one less than two weeks prior in order to deploy. I advised the nurse that a soldier had forced sex on me the day before and was demanding this re-test. They complied and did not ask any further questions. They did annotate this in my record so I would later receive benefits as a result. Again, I had hoped they would summon the MP’s, but nope. The Specialist/rapist returned to my barracks and I showed him the results and never spoke to him again.
I was harassed by my peers with name calling and ostracizing. I woke up every day hating myself, hating the military and feeling unprotected and uncared for. One guy in my unit used to cough and say “c*nt” at me. He was assigned with escorting me to the hospital for my back treatment and counseling. Those were some of the most torturous days of my military career—riding with him for hours, while he was abusive. I’d tell and I would be reprimanded because he outranked me. He exacerbated my PTSD so badly I eventually refused to attend appointments.
I hung in there for a year. Then I was discharged from the Army. The lieutenant in charge of fitness testing at my unit altered my height measurements by one inch and increased my weight to exceed standards so he could discharge me. I was back in the US within a week. My depression was severe, so I sought help at the VA Clinic for PTSD. I later submitted copies of 12 months of fitness tests for review by the ADRB (Army Discharge Review Board). I asked them to amend my discharge type to “Medical” because of my PTSD, instead of the term “Weight Control Failure”. They denied my request, so my paperwork still states I am a failure.
My rape was 17 years ago. Since then I have suffered greatly. Before I went into the Army, I was a strong, beautiful girl. Today I am still strong and beautiful but I am also emotionally crippled by persistent memories of this traumatic rape and my “loss of innocence.” I have hidden behind a wall of weight out of fear that I may be raped again. I have had relationship problems, parenting difficulties, substance abuse issues, debilitating depression and anxiety, and difficulty keeping a job. I exercise, attend groups for PTSD and substance abuse, and see a psychologist weekly. I have to pay cash for my private therapy and the therapy I have my children in. As a female MST Veteran, I have to keep up a regimented self-help schedule to maintain a functional life.
I know that many don’t want to tell about being raped in the service because they were rejected when they reported it so many times before. I have watched other MST survivors succumb to the guilt and shame they STILL feel 30 years later, from being blamed. If everyone around you is telling you that you are crazy, you tend to doubt yourself. It’s like an acceptable form of Chinese water torture. The same mantras get repeated over and over again in the victim’s head, coercing one to believe that in fact the violent rape he or she experienced was his or her fault.
I will continue to try and help convince other MST survivors that they too can recover from MST and addiction. Basically, we all need to be heard, validated, nurtured and learn to live again. I haven’t cried since I quit the pills. I know there is a lot more I have yet to feel, but thanks to the VA treatment I have just begun to get in the past 5 years, MRCC, SWAN, Protect Our Defenders and others like me who are speaking out and pleading for change, I know I am not alone.