My name is Thomas. For the anonymity of those involved, ranks and locations have been changed. My family has a history, going back decades, of serving in the Armed Forces in the United States and it had always been a huge honor to do so. I remember going on a family trip to Washington D.C. when I was in high school to see the various monuments and sights. Before I left for the Army, I was a young and idealistic man who wanted to make military service a career. I was also openly bisexual at the time.
Before I graduated high school, I was in the Future Soldiers program, so once a week after school, I would go and exercise with my recruiter and learn traditions and customs in order to prepare for the Army. My first warning sign should have been in July 2011 when we first heard about the repeal of DADT – the recruiter expressed their deep personal disgust with any LGBT people joining the military and hoped it would be forbidden again soon. I ignored these comments and saw my recruiter as just a person with beliefs which weren’t going to stop me.
After graduation, I left for Basic Combat Training (BCT) at Fort Henry and embarked on what was to be an amazing journey, and for the most part it was, up until drill sergeant Brown rounded up all the “f*ggot” trainees and then let the others mock them openly. Brown even threw a few punches one night. At the end of the training cycle, over two-dozen trainees in our company reported Brown to the Military Police for his various acts of bigotry. Nothing came out of it. Second warning sign.
I graduated BCT and went straight to my assigned training unit at Fort John, but this time, I never mentioned my sexual preference at all and carefully avoided the subject. Within two weeks, someone whom I went to BCT with outed me and other soldiers started forming groups, yelling things like, “F*g in the shower. Everyone run before he rapes you.” Three months in, I finally got beaten up for the first time, despite never making a sexual advance on anyone at all. I went straight to my platoon sergeants who saw the bruises and chose to ignore them, saying, “Boys will be boys.” The attacks only got worse. Notes containing death threats got left on my bed and by the end, I couldn’t sleep or focus and as a result, I failed training. I was re-classed to another job and shipped out in a week. That was my third warning sign.
I arrived at Fort James, which is where I was raped. This time, no one knew who I was, so I stayed very quiet and only focused on doing well in class. I was among the top ten in my graduating class and had a good physical fitness score. On Labor Day 2012, only four weeks until graduation, a soldier from another platoon asked me to come with him to the basement underneath the barracks so I could see his favorite weight training set. It was common for soldiers to spend their weekends in the very large basement and weight train all day, so I thought nothing of it.
He led me to an unusually isolated area and got me into a corner. From there, he ripped my pants down and forced my body to get an erection. I couldn’t move from the shock that this was really happening, despite my verbal protesting. I finally tried to push him away and that is when he threw me into the wall and smacked my head into it, pinned my arms down, and kept going until I pushed him back and started running as fast as I could. I made it to other side of the barracks and to my room, then called my older brother and couldn’t stop crying. My brother made me go to my friend next-door who took me to see the sergeant on duty. From there, the military police took me away to the hospital. During the next few days, I was under orders to stay with another unit, literally never speak, and had a soldier assigned to me to make sure of that. The chain of command for that unit knew everything and gave me express permission to only acknowledge their orders through nodding.
A week after the fact, I was still talking to the military police and trying to get a case going, but the military police wouldn’t let me. I asked my commander if I could see a J.A.G. (military lawyer), but he took me aside and threatened to press charges against me if I spoke out and that I was expressly forbidden from contacting any legal agencies. Both he and my first sergeant said they would let me out with an honorable discharge if I agreed to silence or that I could graduate and move to my next unit. I chose to go to my next unit in Fort William in October 2012.
Fort William proved to be almost as bad because I received more death threats, got physically attacked, and was even involved in a few knife fights with other soldiers. I arrived at Fort William in October 2012 and desperately wanted out by April 2013 because of how the other soldiers reacted when I told my squad leader that I had a date with a man, three months after arriving. From there, I was no longer a welcome member of the unit, but an unwelcome enemy to them, which I was shown through threats, violence, and a few attempts on my life.
I learned to never trust anyone, despite their rank or demeanor, and how to sleep comfortably with a knife under my pillow. There was never a time when I was not carrying a small blade for protection. By the end, I was allowed to go see a therapist who diagnosed me with post-traumatic stress disorder and said they had only seen levels as bad as mine in men with multiple deployments. I have never gone to Iraq or Afghanistan.
I kept trying to get the military police to re-open my case and give me and my rapist a court date because we had never seen one of any kind at all. They denied it and said the case was closed. In the end, I finally got fed up and refused to reenlist. I am now home and my rapist is free and out there somewhere.
In conclusion, rape is a massive problem that constantly gets treated with disdain or a blind eye by those with the power to do anything about it.