I joined the US Navy in June of 1998 because I was struggling to pay for college and I heard about the GI bill through a friend. I choose a Seabee rate because the idea of being on a ship frightened me. I arrived at my permanent battalion in Feb 1999 after I completed basic and my A school. I was on top of the world at that time, full of excitement and confidence because I was the first girl in a few years to graduate from my predominantly male rate. Women were very much out numbered in the seabee battalions and I was told when I got there that there was approximately 600 men and 30 women. That fact only made me feel like I was a badass, and I never thought about the possibility of being sexually harassed or assaulted even once prior to it happening. There was a E5 from another battalion who I always caught staring at me when I would come out of my barracks. He always seemed to be where I was at and would watch me. Me being young and naive, I felt excited about the attention because he was attractive and higher ranking. I tried to start a conversation with him a couple times and it didn’t go very far, he didn’t seem to want to talk to me, only watch me.
After I had been in the battalion a couple months, I went out with my roommate and a few other people, and of course, the guy we will call J, was there. I went back to my barracks early because I felt sort of out of place for some reason and I was tired. I woke up a little after 1am from someone knocking on my door. I opened the door like an idiot, drowsy and half dressed, and J was standing there. He was clearly drunk and told me he was there to have sex with me. I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that because I didn’t really know him well and maybe we could go out sometime. I tried to shut my door but he blocked it with his foot and forced himself in. He shut the door and locked it and before I get a word out he very forcefully pushed me on my bed. I started trying to get away but he was very strong and grabbed both my legs yanking me towards him. He then started to choke me with one hand and ripped my underwear off with the other. I had so many bruises but the ones that bothered me the most were the ones left on my upper thigh from ripping off my underwear. He began to rape me and I was frozen from shock and fear, and was desperately trying to relieve some pressure from neck so I could breath. The more upset I got during the rape, the more aroused and forceful he got, which was extremely painful. He raped me for almost an hour, and when he was finished, he left without saying one word.
I made the decision to keep my rape quiet. I had heard horror stories of what it was like for women who reported. I went about my life in the Navy trying my best to pretend it never happened. As long as no one knew, it didn’t really exists. I did 5 years and got out. I suppressed the memories and pain and eventually self medicated myself with drugs and alcohol. 21 years after my rape I finally told my very first person, and I have finally been seeking help to try and heal. I have had to relive those moments which has been extremely painful to say the least, but after all these years I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
My advice to anyone who is sexually assaulted Is to seek help from the beginning. Whether you report or don’t report, there are resources to help you get through the trauma. No matter how hard you will try, you can’t do it alone and you will never forget. One of the hardest things I have ever done was admitting and speaking about my rape, but it has finally given me some peace that I have long deserved, and everyone else with similar circumstances deserves.