My SHARP Story: Swinging Back
**Note: Names have been changed to protect identities
This is a true story that happened in the Montana National Guard from 2012-2016.
I enlisted in the Army National Guard 8 years ago in 2010 as a maintenance soldier for college money. Two years later, I decided to leave my hometown and my parent’s dairy farm to pursue my dream of being a nurse at Carroll College and commission as an Army Officer through their small ROTC program.
A general rule of thumb for any lower enlisted to not get in trouble: keep your mouth shut, pick up a wrench, and work hard. I always passed the PT test, and was NEVER late. My new unit also had deployed with my previous unit in Wisconsin, and I had received good cred for being a hard working “PT stud” (an exaggeration by them) from my NCOs back home. I was an ambitious and motivated young private who loved the Army and embraced the hard times. I even loved what I called “Army camping,” which was pretty much sleeping outside, eating bad food, and getting stinky.
My first counseling with my team leader in Montana went through the basic criteria of what they expected of me: show up on time, come in the right uniform, respond to phone calls throughout the month, pass PT, and don’t hang out with the two “lazy sluts so and so” and “so and so”. He went into stories about them sleeping with infantry soldiers we shared the building with, and how they tried to sham out of everything. It was outlined that as long as I kept away from them, I would be good to go.
So I did. I was young, and had bigger dreams than wanting to make buddies. Instead of drinking, I sat in my room and studied. I had known what it was like to be broke, hungry, and already spent some years as the life of the party.
Despite my initial intentions of not getting close with anyone, the female clerk of our unit became my best friend and I stuck around the soldiers and NCOs who noticed hard work and was willing to teach someone with an obscure Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). The year I was promoted to specialist, I received an Army Achievement Medal for my hard work during Annual Training.
For many years I considered these people my family, and looked up to them. It’s easy to admire charismatic, “rough around the edges”, hardworking, and knowledgeable people. I was young and naïve, and had real ambitions to make something of myself. I had come from nothing. I had no family in the guard to ensure my success, and I was certainly not going to get on my knees to get there either. At that time, there were names familiarized with doing so although I am not quite sure if they were ever true.
Not all feel that moral obligation to speak out, especially if they are not resilient enough to know that it might put a target on themselves especially if the outcome is always uncertain and there never seems to be any real proof of justice for anyone. Once you speak out against a toxic culture, their reaction is to marginalize credibility and there is no real way of proving the invisible puppeteering strings that are influencing career prospects. It doesn’t take much to make someone look bad, especially a female. Calling them a “crazy slut” behind their back is a way they do it. If you don’t believe me, ask “that woman” Monica Lewinsky.
You realize once you start to paddle against the current, how quickly people abandon you. It’s easier for them not to be ethically and morally conflicted if they label you as the issue.
I ignored things for too long and always wanted to highlight the good things about the unit, and focus on the good qualities of my peers. Like a good little female soldier, I tried to ignore the ignorant comments the males said about the females and proceeded to above their opinions.
The first drill I had, I was given a vacuum by another male lower enlisted and told me that he “didn’t do bitch work.” He then sat in a circle with his friends, and did nothing. Those two females I was warned to stay away from did in fact have bad attitudes, and one of them was promiscuous and very unprofessional in uniform. In fact, the promiscuous female egged the males on and ushered in the sexual harassment in our little detachment and ultimately tore us apart. It is a double standard to think that males are to blame for a toxic environment like this, but for us the toxic culture was indeed created by a female who liked when the males objectified her and other women. The first sexual harassment complaint I had ever been a part of was to report a FEMALE.
The other female actually had nothing to do with males, and was one of the best mechanics in her unit, but she was just lumped in with the other female because I guess it was just easier for them. The friend with the reputation was buddies with a very popular, fit, and good-looking male who blamed how he treated females on being an ex-stripper. He saw me one time out of uniform with my roommates at Buffalo Wild Wings, and became obsessed with seeing my breasts. In front of my peers, he would ask me to flash him and bare my breasts to him to just get it over with. I would be underneath a vehicle, slamming a hammer on a drive shaft with another mechanic, and he would scooch next to me and say inappropriate things to me about my body while I worked. She would laugh, and condone his behavior. They all did.
What was worse, the people in his friend circle treated me as though I should feel honored that he had any interest in me. Some of those people had been my friends in AIT, and knew the person I was in a committed long term relationship with. They knew I wasn’t like that, and for the most part, I was just friendly and avoided the drinking antics. Yet all of them adopted the nickname this guy had given me, a nickname I still see on many of the Sexual Assault Response coordinator’s training slides: “combat titties.”
To be fair, harassment is something one can easily get over between drills. I am willing to bet that SHARP, EO, and IG complaints occur during the longer training events (Annual Trainings) for the mere fact that we go back to our respective lives, implement the “sticks and stones” methodology, and let the little stuff roll off of you. I was doing well in my classes for the most part and knew that I would get everything I wanted if I kept my head up. However, ignoring him made it worse. It was as if, to him and everyone else, I was just playing hard to get and thought I was too good for them.
Their logic puzzled me: was it normal that women in or outside of uniform bare their breasts to a bunch of pervs acting like high school freshman? While walking into the small TBI building on Fort Harrison, his hand made contact with my butt cheeks so hard it sent tears to my eyes. Right behind him laughing was our Victim Advocate representative, an NCO who ended up being kicked out for sexual harassment of another female soldier in the unit. That female was systematically bullied by the unit.
I was too terrified to say anything, having witnessed others being scorched and metaphorically “burned at the stake” for coming forward. I also felt hopeless because the Victim Advocate had done nothing about it. This victim advocate by the way, has recently been kicked out of the Army for sexually harassing and sexually assaulting multiple females. He liked to offer “back massages” and “beer” to try to get into the females’ hotel rooms.
Our command mostly dealt with issues by trying to handle it at their level, but things would still continue. Those females who had been chastised for making complaints would be seen as “troublemakers” by command, even by other females who wanted to avoid being targeted themselves. It is the JOB of command to create the culture and environment of the unit, and ignoring it allowed the toxic culture to thrive.
I remembered when a female left who had issues with the supply NCO (a supply Sargent who had been fired for harassing many females and had targeted a female for years). Some people in this female’s unit kept things civil, but once they got out of the unit, she had no protection. No voice of reason. No woman, no matter how pious and badass, would make them a “perfect victim” in their eyes. Even if the woman was a nun, they would disenfranchise and gaslight them to create doubt to their stories, especially if it were a well-liked and popular individual.
Very often, it is better for a career to remain silent. People simply don’t want to get involved. I was even rewarded to stay quiet, and I did stay quiet for a long time out of fear of not wanting to be targeted. I felt conflicted; I had seen a line of people who would witness and report these issues. I even have a picture in my head of all us waiting to go in to speak with the 1st Sargent and the commander about a particular female who was being unethically punished by two specialists. I remember telling the command team that this particular female had facilitated my sexual harassment, and that two specialists were acting unprofessional and lazy. Then I let it slip that she had egged on my own experiences with that breast-obsessed ex-stripper, and the 1st Sargent looked very concerned: “Slapping your butt is sexual assault”.
It didn’t register at the time what I had just done. It was the first time I had informally complained about another soldier. Or probably, complained in general.
That soldier who had slapped my butt apologized later that day at the UTES motor pool. It was sincere, heartfelt, and he never bothered me again. He even asked me advice about a girl who had dumped him for being the way he was (she was a Physician Assistant student), and I told him that women like her don’t put up with being treated that way. He was someone I realized had been forced by his unit into this persona of being a player, but was growing up and realized he wanted more substance and direction in his life. The friend I had at AIT kept his distance from me for about a year, but later apologized and even spoke out against the sexual harassment in the unit when he became an NCO. That female was reprimanded for sexual harassment — a story I use to prove a point about how sexual harassment works: females are just as big of culprits. She went AWOL and I never saw her again.
I want to say this was a success story in a way, but during that apology in the very same meeting about the butt-slapping, he was asked to represent the unit. Now as a LT, I look back with disgust for the command team I had thought so highly of. They wanted someone who had sexually assaulted me to represent our unit as “the best soldier”…someone who had sexually assaulted another soldier. He had even admitted to it.
Slapping my butt didn’t hurt me physically, but it startled me. I didn’t say anything because it did not register to me as assault at the time. I know many women are completely clueless when someone is taking advantage of their personal space. The damage to my reputation by objectifying me and giving me a filthy nickname was worse. It clung on to me for years. Would I ever been seen for my worth for anything other than what I looked like, and what I allowed them to do to me?
The times that we live in now are highlighted by men and women coming forward against powerful men who have been getting away with it for decades. Their fame gives them credibility and a voice. We are only just beginning to uncover the corruption of hiding sexual abuse in many religious environments, work environments, etc. Even with our strength in numbers we are STILL doubted, scrutinized, barely managing to hold on to our compromised reputations. Having solid evidence, such as recording proof against our perpetrators is a FELONY. If you choose to go to the police and show them the threats, blackmail, and unwanted dick pics saved on your cell phone they will phone dump your phone and give all information to the defense to build a case against the victim. Not going to the police makes the victim less credible, but the police might not believe you.
We as a society add our hash tagged “me too” declarations in the comfort of our electronic devices, yet say nothing when it is happening right in front of them to someone else.
In the small Montana National Guard, the Sexual Assault and Response Coordinator is usually someone who is married to another Active Guard Reservist, who are usually powerful people that are buddies with other powerful people. They get their fingers into everything and, even if it is classified and they gossip like a crochet circle influencing things behind the scenes. It is a well-known fact, and goes unchallenged because there is no proof. They rule these small National Guard communities in all states; power is knowing more than the other person and sharing their information with their small-minded, small town personal opinions that could influence action. They use it to their own advantage to bar people from jobs, and upward mobility. Their personal lives and professional lives are interchangeable, and can make a difference on investigations. In Montana, they call this powerful clique the “BBQ” club. The members of the JAG in that National Guard might also have invisible ties to people who can influence certain outcomes. You could find things out very quickly if you knew someone who knew someone. Nothing was ever confidential for the victims of IG, EO, and most of all SHARP. There was a very good reason why I chose to drive an hour and a half to the active duty Air Force base to speak with their SARC and have a Special Victims Counsel through the Air Force. I knew how corrupt the system was.
I want to say that my story ends with the butt slap heard throughout the unit and maybe throughout the Guard but it doesn’t. Those people who had my back eventually got tired of the corrupt and toxic environment and left the unit. We were so low on numbers and manpower that no one was safe to get stuck with scrubbing toilets. I remember one soldier on his last drill smugly smiled at me when he was there for some paperwork and joked that he could now “sexually harass” me now that he was a civilian.
I offered to take her place in driving him, since I had a boom box and I could just drown him out. She told me she would tough it out, but she was sick of talk about him discussing sex and how he could see her pink bra through her sweaty shirt. To be honest, he creeped me out too.
The readiness NCO, on his first couple days ended up being removed from the unit. She told me that he was trying to coerce her in his nasty stained tight whitey’s into the back of the van, and so I suggested that the next night that she have some people nearby and be loud enough for them to hear.
She did the following night, when everyone was sitting on their cots speaking in hushed sleepy tones to their buddies with the sound of Abram tanks in the distance. It wasn’t just one or two people who heard her exclaim disgustedly how she didn’t want to sleep in the back of the van with him AND to put on pants. I looked over, behind the camo netting and saw the small dirty man in his white underwear looking down at her trying to explain that it was much cooler in the van. Creepy old man.
The other incident that had sealed his fate was when they had rigged a shower tent by putting two holey camo nets on top of each other, over a spigot. The spigot had its own little small confined area, and then the other area we could change without getting our stuff wet. It was dusk, and the shower was bliss. While we were changing, our readiness NCO walked by, and shown his flashlight over our bodies through the tent with his tongue flicking at us. His pock marked face was smiling at us. I remember we had looked at each other in shock.
Her cot was next to mine, and that was where she remained for the majority of AT in a depressed funk. The next day everyone, except for those who heard it but didn’t want to get involved wrote sworn statements. I wrote what happened, and in bullet format curtly warned them about the reprisal of the unit against people who came forward. He was escorted to the BN TOC, where he remained. He was eventually kicked out.
What is worse about the whole thing for me, was the fact that the Investigating Officer appointed to this case sent me unwanted videos of himself masturbating in one of the bathrooms at Fort Irwin while he was on recon at NTC. “Don’t show this to ANYBODY”, he warned. He became the Commander of 163rd Charlie Co a short time afterward, and was one of the “squared away” favorites of the Battalion Commander. I told a few people, even showed the video to some people, but have been too terrified of the repercussions to attempt to get rid of him.
At the same year AT a feeler had sat on my cot and gushed how this NCO wanted to f*ck me. I mean, this is week two of being in the field and people lost a lot of professional filter. It is also a lot like prison, where people want to get cozy and romantic with just about anyone who calls them pretty and gives them attention. I am not sure to this day if this whole thing was even true or not. He had never said anything to me, besides asking me to help him with looking at a couple of generators which I did without complaining.
I grew uncomfortable with his attention, and started to sit in my truck during our off times to get away. I pointedly told him to leave me alone, very colorfully so he would get the hint that I was not interested in any type of sexual relationship.
On one of the last days of AT, a female mechanic and myself had been ordered to bring some filters over to distro. We asked what size, and the motor sergeant just shrugged and told them to load all of them up since they didn’t specify. We did as we were told, and drove over. Upon arrival, the NCO who had said wanted to “f*ck” me was in hysterics. He threw open the back of the HWMV and started shouting at us. Everyone was staring at us, as he went on about how we didn’t even bring the right size. Eventually he realized that we had, but still kept going about his tantrum of belittling me. I tried to report it, but it was never sent up. I was the one who received a talking too, and was told that because I wanted to be an officer that I had to just deal with it. He later told me through my clerk friend if I reported him, he would tell the commander that I was dating an officer from another unit. Blackmail.
Even when you are nice in turning them down, they make it an issue for you. Another E5 NCO from the infantry chased me for YEARS. He would beg me to go and see him, and would drive 5 hours to come visit. It was a sweet gesture, but I had told him multiple times I had been dating someone else. He then pretended to be my friend, and the minute I would be single he would be relentless. At one point in the summer of 2017, he called me and informed me that we were in a relationship and that he would be ever so “patient” with me since he knew I was busy. This “nice guy” after I finally told him after it would never happen, because I just was not attracted to him through a fit and made up all sorts of rumors. Fortunately, I saved all those pathetic texts of his.
And if you think ghosting works, it doesn’t. A warrant officer from the aviation unit started texting me after I had tried to get my soldiers a sling load class, but it was taken over by the Special Forces unit training instead. I was a busy girl, fully committed to my two jobs, and my master’s degree and I had heard word that he was just a party playboy even though he was in his mid-thirties. He was interesting to say the least, but I just wasn’t attracted to him. I just stopped talking to him. After he defriended me off Facebook, he ran his own smear campaign. I saved all the texts, knowing that saying something about it would just detract from other more important things but just in case I needed proof of foul play. These are the ridiculous measures an ambitious female has to do to deal with difficult people. Blackmail is illegal, but you have to prove it.
The males in our unit in Idaho had started to isolate the females. They tried to move all our equipment out of the tent when we were on mission, and when we got back and found our things blowing off in the wind. Someone had counter complained about the females sleeping under the tent with the males, and their solution was to move us. They wanted to change and walk around in their undies under the tent, but they couldn’t because we were there and we would get “offended”.
I lost it. This was EXACTLY my point about retaliation. What kind of whiner couldn’t go to the back of a van like all the rest of the females and change? This was bullshit, and they were swinging back at us for speaking up. I went to the E7 motor sergeant who had a habit of trying to flirt with me over text and would leave boxes of champagne in the backseat of my car, told him that I was putting my cot back where it was. This was the main area where we received our mission briefs anyway, so this wasn’t an area where people should be walking around in their undies anyway. I huffed and puffed defiantly as I dragged my stuff back. The other females did too. One of the mechanic females was yelling curse words at her male buddies for such bullshit. The males looked at us grimly from their card games, and didn’t put up a fight. The next day the commander came down and basically pointed out the same thing, and said he would implement my suggestion of having changing times in the maintenance tent for different genders.
My male friends got distant, and wouldn’t speak to the other females. People I had known and respected for years rolled their eyes at us, and gave us all the crap shifts. They would ignore us, and treat us like we were the problem. Fortunately, I avoided them just as much and started listening to my podcasts in my truck while my phone charged. Later, someone went into my truck and smashed my cell phone. When I went to point this out to my PSG, a man who I had worked for the summer before and got rides with to drill, ignored me. Our platoon leader, a mousey man did nothing but tell me very timidly that I had to know my place if I was going to be an officer. I knew why my clerk friend was acting like this way now.
I never fully recovered, and I lost a good amount of friends. The EO representative claimed I had blamed her for not reporting it when it was reported and brought up the chain of command, but I told the commander and the 1SG that all I had wanted to do was sit down and hash it all out. It was my senior year and I was commissioning at the end of it. The PSG had enough and left, and so did the PL shortly after. The PSG told me that he didn’t want to be PSG for the female PL assigned for the detachment because she had gotten pregnant at BOLC, a result from cheating on her husband which resulted in her having an abortion. She took a lot of ownership of the situation, and I respected her for it. She kept driving on. She told me stories of her wild antics when she was younger, and didn’t seem to feel the need to apologize for not being perfect.
That was right around the time our training NCO had gotten fired for impregnating one of his soldiers, and a new mean looking NCO filled his position. He barked at people, and didn’t care whose feelings he hurt. The supply SGT had taped his desk shut as a prank, and the freak out that occurred was something people still remember. He had a reputation for flying off the handle, and I kept away from him.
I was still dealing with the repercussions of that AT. My friend had finally gotten away from the unit, the pervy readiness NCO was fired, and the NCO I had issues with stayed away from me. It seemed the creepy medic had more of an issue with me than he did. I didn’t care. I was a cadet now, and I had the balls to stay put and weather the storm. I wasn’t going to go down without a fight. I was still proud to work hard at my drills, unlike the other cadets who seemed to lounge around with their feet up and not understand that we worked until midnight on Saturday.
I had volunteered to be on the full rotation of another round of OCTC in May 2015, since I had no other source of income and despite all the other SHARP and EO stuff I loved how the missions shaped my aspirations of becoming a logistics officer. The commander had made me Convoy Commander, and it went pretty well. That OCTC experience was a good one, if it weren’t for someone accusing me of having sex in a HMMV with the new training NCO. No one believed it, but it did solidify a friendship between myself and the training NCO. He was baffled at a rumor flying at us from nowhere, and then I had explained the AT prior and the NCO who I had beef with. People had claimed that I had sex with all these different people, including that NCO at Annual training. The command team knew it was all bullshit, but a lot of the old people were no longer apart of the unit who had my back and knew me. They also knew it wasn’t my character to be tied to anyone romantically, but now it was my fault because of my personality. The training NCO seemed more offended by that, but how could I explain that this was normal in this unit for them to treat women like this? It was years and years of issues of how they treated women, and how many of them had jumped ship.
The Distro PL took it upon himself to reprimand me anyways, that I needed to keep away from NCOs. Maybe he thought he was “mentoring” me, but I was being “talked to” about something that never happened. I told him that that person who made a false accusation, had partaken in slander and bullying and by them not doing anything was condoning that within the unit and had been started with an NCO who I turned down. He then told me that officers just let it go. The wind began to gust up, and the tarp went loose. I quickly climbed up and did a series of messed up but sturdy knots that never went undone. Someone made a joke of my knot job, and asked who had done it and he said “someone whose name rhymes with ‘whore’.” Everyone stared at him, shocked. “Sir, maybe you need to be more professional. You are an officer after all” I pointed out to him, as he realized what he had just said to a bunch of lower enlisted soldier’s. A couple of NCOs chimed in and called out his bullshit. I felt a sense of dread; if he got fired he wouldn’t have a job on AGR. I babysat his kids during the summer, and his wife was so sweet and nice to me.
I had to convince everyone in the area to let it go. I had to even chase someone down who had went to report the incident to someone, and called the 1SG and explained to him that it was just a mistake and I didn’t want the LT to get fired. He promised me he would handle it. I heard nothing about it again.
I had to convince everyone in the area to let it go. I had to even chase someone down who had went to report the incident to someone, I had called the 1st Sargent and explained to him that it was just a mistake and I didn’t want the LT to get fired. He promised me he would handle it. I heard nothing about it again.
When I got back from my cadet training, the training NCO asked me to be his girlfriend at the airport. I kept the card he gave me to remind me of the Jekyll and Hyde nature that abuse people have sometimes. It is typically why most victims have a hard time leaving, especially if you are a broke cadet who is trying to get through ROTC to pay for an education.
At NTC, I was put in charge of the toxic people I had grown up with as a soldier. NCOs who hated me for doing the right thing and speaking out, and now I was in charge of them. Any power I had was limited, since I was only a pawn for my Commander. Any real input I gave him, he would shoot down and I would have to do his bidding. If I refused, he would threaten to tell my ROTC program. I often wondered if it had been worth sticking up for my friend, who had come back to the unit. She had lost her baby, a pregnancy that to my knowledge was later than a usual miscarriage and had gained weight. Not even her male friends would now have her back, especially since she had gained a little weight.
I had a coin that the BC had given me for coming forward when others didn’t, but it was just a reminder of pain. She was not the same person; truthfully, I didn’t know how to deal with this person who had lost motivation and clung to excuses that I knew were coping mechanisms. Anyone who was not a 91B was moved over to be ground guides, and we were extremely low on people who could drive certain vehicles. Mechanics became gun CET teams instead of doing their jobs, an order from the commander.
The maintenance platoon promptly got rid of all the females. We were directed to not get rid of any of the 91B, 91H, or 91A. They got rid of the females anyway, and some of them who were smart volunteered to be sliced out to the other companies before they could be taken away. It was at this time that they were picking on our newest and youngest female enlisted soldier, and they had already given her a reputation for being slutty and lazy. She was a “problem” to everyone, and when they gave her to another unit they made sure she was treated poorly even though she wasn’t the soldiers who had shown up to NTC drunk and was late.
Through gritted teeth, my commander would direct me to do things that led to an argument between us. Some of the people had been out 48 hours non-stop, and they needed to rest. I can say “I was just a cadet”, but I couldn’t help but challenge his logic. He was a toxic leader, and everyone hated him. How he treated people was notorious, and he was finally relieved of command at the end of NTC. I learned that no matter how smart you think you are, or how much merit your score on a PT test if you don’t treat your troops with dignity and respect they will find a way to get your ass out of there. And they did.
School started, and “Tom” started to show his true colors. I had made it known that I was disgusted with how he was treating a female NCO, whom he would call “a dirty fucking indian” and had even tried to get me to take a picture of her while she was sleeping so he could make a meme to send throughout the Fort.
He would get nasty if I wasn’t at his home after school with dinner made. I enjoy cooking and making food, but I hated sitting on the couch with my head in his lap doing nothing but watching TV day after day. His roommate was another NCO who talked like a surfer guy and was a part of a support unit. He was a massive dude who had decent cooking skills and only liked to talk about girls he wanted to bang. Tom resented and disliked him (mostly out of jealousy). Tom eventually told him to go because his best gal pal was moving in.
Tom’s gal pal and I were fast friends, but we were both fearful of Tom’s unpredictable rage. He slammed doors in our faces after the Steelers would lose, made drunken scenes and licked windows, and yanked keys out of my hands. There were imaginary dents in the sink and imaginary dishes missing and when I challenged him, he would throw glasses at me. I grew fearful of him. On better days, he found a hole in his fence and screamed that he was going to shoot out his neighbors’ windows.
In the September-October time frame, I felt sick and heavily lethargic. I had started drinking a lot of wine at night and vowed to cool it a bit to take the edge off of the fear that was growing inside me. Plus, people had told me I had gotten kind of pudgy, including Tom, so I decided to sign up at the gym and work out. The last drill I had was where someone openly called me fat, and I told them I could still outrun them. I had spent the whole time writing sworn statements again for my friend, now for incidences at NTC. The Commander and 1SG was removed shortly after and since I was gone, I am sure that it had been blamed on me. My friend never came back to the unit. She never spoke to me again. Somehow, I had let her down.
I had been moved and my best friend was the PL. It was slow-paced and a total change from where I was before. I told her I wanted to leave Tom without getting too much into it. I had suffered a miscarriage, which I realized was why I was probably having crazy mood swings and gaining weight. Tom had become a different person, and he resented my reputation. I would hold my ground and argue back with him, which lead to him throwing something at me – mostly his dog’s toys, my Darth Vader mug, or other glass things. I wondered what his best friend thought when she saw our waste-basket. She hated living with him, too, but he provided her with free shelter. While visiting her in January at her house, she could sense that something was clearly wrong. I couldn’t tell her about the sexual abuse, and she had only seen slight evidence of his physical violence. I was almost savoring my time with her while he was at school because it was the perfect time to leave.
I was better than Tom slapping me around, and I knew I might lose everything if he carried through on his threats of dumping my things on the ROTC lawn like a redneck soap opera. The miscarriage had left me crumbled, emotionally unstable, and angry. I had distanced myself from peers, and I truthfully was a drunk piece of shit. Maybe my cadre knew that something was going on and urged me to cling on. If it hadn’t been for those few whom I told, who picked me up every day and pounded on my door to get my ass up out of bed, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I did finally leave Tom, and it was messy and disgusting. I broke up with him in his best friend’s basement over the phone, and he talked me out of it. Then the next time, I committed and accused him of cheating after a friend had told me that he did. I knew it was the same old rumors, but I wanted to be done with him. I wanted proof though of his violent nature and his threats that were only verbal at the time, so I tried to scrape it out of him. I got some, but when I went to the police with my evidence, they told me that any text message I had would allow them to take my phone so that the defense could have a case against me. It was all I had besides my story, and that is not enough evidence for anyone.
When OCI came to investigate, the question that bothered me the most was: “What did his face look like while he held you down and tortured you?”
Remembering every scrutinizing detail sent me into a tailspin, and my Special Victims Counsel on the military side warned me about this afterwards. Tom’s face would pop into my head. Intimacy and being close to people has been a struggle since Tom. Letting people into my soul, something I allowed so freely before, has been locked away. It has been that way ever since.
Social isolation is a form of punishment, and can be torture on the human species that have complex social fulfillment that is a natural and basic need. Prisoners will choose anything else over solitary confinement because isolation physically hurts. A victim’s loss is immeasurable, and for years they will be witch hunted. Scores of people who don’t know who you are to watch you burn at the stake for being a woman with a voice and a story. It hurts worse to stare out into the crowd and see faces of friends, trust me.
Victims and witnesses are judged, demonized, and marked as troublemakers. I want solutions. I want the military justice system to represent true justice, and not be catered to the perpetrators who are protected by cronyism.
I was meant to go through this. I was meant to walk this path and to share my story with you.
I am an American Soldier. I always will be. I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade.