Kirstin’s Story

Kirstin’s Story

I was 19 years old when I woke up with one drill sergeant looking in on another drill sergeant who lived in the home. I had no idea how I got there. This was August of 1978 at the One Station Unit Training Military Police Corps School at Ft. McClellan, AL.

I had to move on and forget about it. I left Ft. McClellan, went home, and helped my recruiting station as a recruiter’s aide for approximately two months. I left for Ft. Bragg to learn to work the road as Military Police (MP) and to learn the UCMJ enforcing it, and then later for my dream to be an attorney for those who’d been victimized one way or another. I wanted to prosecute offenders who took basic rights away from good, hardworking, and kind people.

I entered the 65th Military Police Company. Soon, I was asking for a transfer because I was being sexually harassed with statements like, “You give a little, you’ll get a little,” “I want you to meet me at the track for remedial physical therapy after 4 pm,” and “You’re top heavy, I want you to make the runs.” Many, many more inappropriate comments. Harassment became so bad that my promotions were being passed over. My job duties were spread in many areas within the Battalion.

I eventually did get a transfer next-door to the 21st Military Police Company as a rehabilitative transfer. Soon, I was being summoned at all different times of the day, including after hours by the new Platoon Sergeant (Sgt).

In 1980, I was at the Enlisted Club on post. The Platoon Sgt gave me lawful order to ride back with him to the company area. I left in his POV and soon found myself traveling to his off-post quarters.

I tried to get away, talk my way to safety, but the sexual assault happened.

He had the decency to drive me back to the barracks, all the while threatening bodily injury and death if I opened my “trap” and said anything. I was 19, and I was not understanding a bit about any of what had happened.

I found out later that two other women had also been at the mercy of our perpetrator.

I was a full of life at 19 years old. I may not have understood why, but I knew I didn’t have to spread my legs for anyone…period. I spoke up. I went to my commander. The burden was on me. I eventually went to JAG. Things became horrible. I was assaulted many times after my Platoon Sgt said to me all the time, “You better keep your trap shut.”

When I walked into the JAG office that day, I knew I was in the midst of something bigger than me, but I was not prepared to hear the Major tell me my Battalion was after me because I reported my Platoon Sgt. The Platoon Sgt was court-martialed; his sentence was suspended, which meant no punishment. I later found out that he was put back on the E-7 list when I left Ft. Bragg.

I needed to watch my back at all times. I found an attorney from the handwritten list of them that the Major had given me, saying he’d deny he even spoke with me.

I went through hell, betrayal, trying to keep my head above all criticism, and was continuously moved from one work area to another. Eventually, I was sent to a Chapter 13 hearing. With my attorney, we showed every job they had assigned me to. I excelled in job performance yet, they’d move me around. When questioned, they simply stated I had an apathetic attitude and was unsuitable for military service.
The Board ruled I was to be immediately Honorably discharged. We appealed to the Post Commander, and I was able to stay on active duty, with the memo stating I had been a victim of “gross sexual harassment.”

I tried to transfer out of Ft. Bragg. From here, I filed a sexual discrimination case against my superiors and the Department of the Army. My case was dismissed in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1983.

At this time, I really felt broken and that I did not matter.

I never could secure orders. Even though they would be processed, somehow the transfers never happened. I soon came up for reenlistment. It was here I found out I was barred from reenlistment.

My service ended on June 5, 1981. I moved to San Antonio in early 1982. From here, I joined the Army Reserve Unit. The unit told me I’d eventually be able to reenlist. I was thrilled, but it never happened. I eventually discharged to try and move on and find a new career in June of 1985.

I decided to go back to school for sociology. I became very hyper-vigilant and extremely anxious much of the time. School was stressful. I was taking a midterm math final and was prepared, but something triggered me when I entered the classroom. I panicked and ran out of the room. Eventually, I dropped out of school with less than 40 credits to graduate.

I became homeless, and I turned to drugs. I drank and shoplifted, all for engaging in risky behaviors to try and have some kind of control again. I learned in therapy later on with a civilian therapist that this was misguided.

I never knew I could use the VA until I was committed to the San Antonio State Hospital after many suicide attempts. I was eventually transferred to the Audie Murphy VA Medical Center where I was diagnosed with PTSD. Treatment was never offered for my diagnosis, just what would become a very long list of dangerous hard, anti-psychotic medications. I’d hear commanding voices. I believed them when later they told me I was psychotic. Many diagnoses followed.

Years of neglecting what I was suffering from, lack of trust, a broken spirit, and now a serious drug addiction followed. In June 1995, I was involved in a motor vehicle accident, which impaired my mobility.

I returned to Michigan to be close to family. I was no longer my family’s daughter, sister, niece, or granddaughter. I was no longer me. My family rejected anything to do with me. I was lethargic. I slept a lot. I abused drugs a lot. 30 or more suicide attempts.

I was lost.

In Brecksville, OH, I started prolonged exposure therapy with a therapist whom I liked and trusted. She knew my love for dog, and she was really helping me.

But then I found out that my therapist had been fired. I was assigned another therapist with whom I clashed. This led to many hospitalizations and suicide attempts. Just pure chaos and dysfunction on my part.

My previous therapist was then rehired at the Vet Center, and I was able to continue with her. We started over, but then the Director of the Vet Center said I had to go back to the VA where my care could be under one umbrella. I was, again, sent back to the clashing with my second therapist. Finally, I just started self-medicating.

I sobered up in 2006. Fast-forwarding, I have been through hell with no one ever listening to what really happened along the way from when I was 19 to 59 years old.

I moved to Phoenix in 2012. I was hospitalized briefly in April of that year. I haven’t been back since.

I’ve had to take my life back from the VA. It’s taken my service dogs and taking myself off all psychiatric drugs for almost three years now. I had to find treatment for myself – mindfulness, yoga, my service dog, Shirlie, and my retired service dog, Clyde, and a dog I rescued, Marley, to keep retired Clyde company while Shirlie and I are out living again.

The VA didn’t recognize MST related PTSD until 2002. It has been nightmare that is not going away, but I am finally healing and hoping to find justice after 34 years with my PTSD service dog, Shirlie, who helps manage me.

It’s been a journey. I believe today I’m free again.