Message from Panayiota Bertzikis

Greetings,

You are about to read true first person testimonies of sex abuse in the United States military. A lot of the survivors do go into details about their sexual assault, rape and the military response to the rape.  Reading these testimonies could potentially be triggering to survivors of Military Sexual Trauma or rape. Please take that into account before continue reading.

My Duty to Speak started as a writing workshop in Cambridge, MA for Military Sexual Trauma survivors that was hosted by the Military Rape Crisis Center in November 2010. The day workshop was taught by some of the greatest trauma and writing specialist in the country. By writing about what we went through while wearing the uniform we broke the silence of abuse liberating ourselves while also might be helping someone else who is feeling the same way.

We are thankful for so many survivors who came forward to share their Military Sexual Trauma testimonies with us. As you can read from the testimonies the military response to rape is often as disturbing and horrifying as the act of rape itself. Want to do something to help survivors? Take Action and call your representatives and demand better treatment for sexual assault survivors in the military. Head over to change.org and sign our brand new Petition to demand better treatment to survivors of rape in the Coast Guard. If you are interested in sharing your testimony go to Be Heard.

My staff and I are always available to you email me at panayiota@stopmilitaryrape.org . Together we are making a difference and improving the military response to sex abuse within it ranks. However, there is a lot more that needs to be done and we can not do this without you,  your support and your voice!

With gratitude,
Panayiota Bertzikis
Managing Editor
MyDutytoSpeak.com

We do not take liability for anything posted on here.

Raped and still paying for it

I joined at a young age but was sure the Coast Guard was where I wanted to be. They shipped me across the country away from family to remote area with no support. I began to receive sexual harassment from my co workers at my unit. After filing a harassment complaint about rumors spreading about my sexual life I was retaliated against and was sent to another unit where my issues followed. I was continually harassed.

I was raped in 2012 by a civilian but was terrified to tell anyone. I did not want to get in trouble for drinking. My performance dropped as I tried to push my depression and nightmares down. I began to drink very heavily and did not care about my career. I saw my assailant at bars around town. I finally broke down and told a supervisor what happened a year later. I thought he understood and actually cared. It turned out to be a lie.

During my CGIS investigation I was told I was lying and that I was in the wrong because I could not remember specific details. I was told by my command thaI was in no danger and I had to stay in the area even though my rapist had broken into my house and robbed me afterwards. I was not able to sleep thinking he was waiting for me. Finally they moved me and things seemed to get better.

The treatment began to work but I was placed in a area where a lot of accused offenders came to await processing. I had to stay in the same barracks where they stayed during duty and they even placed a person who was convicted of sexual assault to work in the barracks where he had access to make keys to every room. I transferred again and continued to receive harassment from higher ups and was eventually kicked out and was forced to sit in a room with my harassers after having suicidal ideations.

I am lost because I am still in and don’t know what to do now. I am tired of having this over my head and never moving forward. I continually talk down to myself and make myself feel as if i am not good enough to be in the coast guard. How can these people who are just horrible continue to stay in and advance and victims who genuinely could do good for the Coast Guard are pushed out?

Years of abuse

Chad, United States Army

Shortly after switching from Reserve to Active Duty, I was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. My unit was sent to the field within days of my arrival. My first night in the field with my unit I was brutally hazed by a group of my peers.

As the assault ended and everyone disappeared into the woods, I stood up and started gathering my uniform and gear that had been stripped from my body. I suddenly felt myself being thrown to the ground again. My attacker mounted me and started acting like he was anally raping me. He then removed my undershorts and penetrated me with a small stick, causing permanent deformity to my body.

He kept repeating “You like that, don’t you faggot. Yeah, that’s right. I know what you are.” I was terrified. I knew that if I reported it I would face the risk of discharge because of my sexuality. I kept quiet.

My physical wound was painful, but I never sought treatment for fear of having to disclose what happened. My attacker was eventually assigned to be my team leader, then squad leader. He psychologically abused and bullied me for my remaining time at Fort Bragg. I lived in constant fear of being exposed. I still have frequent flashbacks and require a PTSD Service Dog.

Don’t be silent like I was. It will ruin your life. Get help, do not be ashamed, and know that it is NEVER your fault.

Male recruit raped at Basic Training

I am one of the lucky ones. I left for Basic Training to Lackland AFB in November a couple years back. I was older, 23 when I went, so already I felt I had the leg up. I still try to put it behind me, act like it didn’t happen, so I can move on. No one Knows. I had the fortunate pleasure of having three training instructors. One day when I went into the dorm with just my wing man and I, while everyone else was in the chow hall, one of them was in there. Already nervous, he started yelling of course. Made my wing man stand in the first bay, While I was in the bathroom. You all know how long the bays are. My wing man was of course at the far end, so he couldn’t hear me cry, at least that I know of. The T.I. came in, I was at the sink, filling my canteen. He smiled. Asked If I was ok. Yes sir. He put his hand on my neck. rubbed it. what are you doing? It’s ok. There he goes hand down my pants. get off me. he yanked them down. crying already. water everywhere. something slimy. he prepared he brought lubrication. it was with him. it hurt badly. this is what you signed up for trainee sa*****.it was quick thank god. god can be merciful I guess. He left. I sat there washed up and left in a daze. M wing man saw nothing, and heard nothing I guess. I got lucky. real lucky. Went to the hospital the next day with a few excuses of not feeling well. Discharged out of B.A.S right there. I was stuck in med hold for a couple weeks, but I never had to see him again. Who’s going to believe that a male T.I. raped a male anyway. I have never told anyone until now. YOU. this website. I feel a little bit of weight has been lifted off. thank you.

Raped at Coast Guard Station South Portland, Maine

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I joined the U.S. Coast Guard October 31, 1983. After graduating boot camp I was assigned to a small boat station in South Portland, Maine. It was there that I was brutally raped and told that if I told anyone that my face would be cut up with a knife.

The rape was reported and investigated. There was evidence. I was transferred to another duty station. Word spread and I experienced harassment about proceeding forward with the case. The rapist was a Second Class Boatswains Mate (E-5). He was later discharged from the service.

I requested counseling and the counselor was a woman who blamed me for the rape. I will never forget her saying; “If women would just say yes there would be no rape.” I ended up holding all emotions in and continued on with my service.

As time continued on, I experienced headaches, body pains, and panic attacks. In 1991 I sought treatment from the rape crisis center in Miami, FL. I was having difficulty with flashbacks and panic attacks. It was there that I was told that I had Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) delayed-onset. I received care through a civilian therapist.

I had to fight for my medical care and went through 2 medical boards and won both. I transferred to New York in October of 1993. The Coast Guard made healing and recovery difficult.

I went to a National Organization for Women meeting in NYC and listened to a speaker discuss (PTSD). I later went to her for therapy. In 1995 I had an increase in symptoms and realized that if I were to heal, I needed to move on and leave the service. I received a disability retirement in January of 1996. I tried to serve 20 years, but my physical body was worn from the trauma inflicted upon me.

After reporting the first rape and experiencing the after effects of reporting, I decided that I would never report a rape again.

The bystanders

A few years ago I was serving on a cutter in the Coast Guard (I’m at a different unit now). We were at a week-long port call and were moored up at a pier. I was on the mess deck eating lunch with a female coworker on a Monday and she told me a story.

She said that she was out at a bar with a bunch of other people from the ship and they all got pretty drunk. After coming back to the ship one of the guys pushed her up against a wall and sexually assaulted her. She couldn’t push him away and had to wait for someone else to walk by and pull him off of her. Another guy walked by and saw it happening, but didn’t do anything because the two of them were friends.

Now, we’re friends. I think of her as like a little sister. I was not happy when I heard this. I knew that I wasn’t thinking clearly because I was so angry, so I didn’t do anything and waited until later to talk to someone else. I got her to tell the story to another female that we work with and I said that my feeling is that we should tell our supervisor and get these two guys in trouble.

The female that it happened to said that she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, and to just let it go. The other female said that we should just do whatever the other wants to do with it. Their main thought was that we’re in a job that no one on the ship likes, and the other two were thought of as everyone’s friends.

They were afraid that she would get in trouble and everyone would take the guys’ side. As much as I hated to let it go….they were probably right. We never did anything about it. It still haunts me to this day. I hate seeing bad people go unpunished.

Raped and retaliated against in the U.S Navy.

Anonymous, United States Navy

It took a lot of courage to come forward and report I had been sexually assaulted by my army supervisor (e-7) and his Afghan colleague who both worked for the 3star Army command general.

I thought there would be an investigation and that I would be allowed to continue doing my job, especially with other women in my same shop coming forward and reporting similar actions from the same supervisor around the same time as me. I turned down his advances and he said, “that’s okay because even if you’re not into me, I have an associate who is also interested in you for sex.” But my words fell on deaf ears when my supervisor once again cornered and attacked me at work.

I did not make it back to my barracks room the same night without being forcibly raped by his associate, and one of the guys at the next base they moved me to joked in front of my new co-workers (my third day there after my navy e-9 called ahead and warned the new command I had been raped and was somehow now “their problem” to be “dealt with”) that he would be the next to rape me (after I learned I would have to do detainee ops and sort through decapitated body parts instead of my job as an IT as punishment for coming forward while the three star covered up the investigation because it was an election year and spearheaded 3 years of retaliation and mistreatment that cost me my career and barred me from getting accurate, ethical medical care, especially after I reported HIPAA violation at the next place I was transferred). Being assaulted was bad enough.

I did not officially enter hell until I spoke up about it and the military commands did everything in their power to distract me, discredit me, demoralize me, and destroy my once promising career as they railroaded me out of the service for political reasons.

Friendly Fire, Not So Friendly

They say a Marine on duty has no friends. Truer words have never been spoken.

My experience in the military has been one of accomplishment, pride, and endurance. It was also heart breaking, emotionally disturbing, and disappointing. I enjoyed being in the Marine Corps. It was challenging. It pushed me to limits I didn’t even know existed, and beyond. After completing MOS school I was stationed aboard a tropical island, many only dream of going.

I was doing well for myself aboard my station, received recognition for achievements, and I was satisfied. I met my husband and we began our family together. There had already been rumors that there were Marines who were not conducting themselves properly. Our unit had come under investigation, which wasn’t surprising given the fact leadership did nothing to change how Marines were behaving nor how problems were handled. The “keep it in-house rule” was applied for anything that arose from underage drinking, to attacks on females in an attempt to keep them quiet. Not my problem. It was “above my pay grade”.

Duty NCO’s are in charge of keeping the peace in the barracks, and I have my own things to deal with. Besides, I didn’t live in the barracks. Around this time, a family member of mine became gravely ill. I had used up all of my leave and was unable to go home. My husband in turn went with our son to see this family member as we were unsure whether they would pass due to their illness. I packed up their things and sent them on their way. They were set to return three weeks after their departure. This was my first time being apart from my son, and staying in a multi-story house alone did nothing to ease this. I became very work oriented often spending an additional 2-3 hours after close of business of the work day. Thing’s hadn’t been going to well at work because a disgruntled higher-up had been removed from his position and placed in my work section. The wonderful joys of dealing with an angry old school Marine who believes women should be making coffee, sweeping the floors, and staying at home. The weekend following my family’s departure was much welcomed, and brought about a sense of relief for two days.

As usual, I went over to see my neighbor who husband was on deployment. So, girls night, we had ourselves a couple of drinks and enjoyed watching several shows. Earlier in the day another neighbor had invited her to come over and partake in a cookout they were having. I was invited to come. We shared drinks, enjoyed some food, and were inebriated by midnight. I called it a night and returned to my house which was down the street. Somewhere along the lines a Marine I knew had come over unannounced and was at this cookout. I didn’t know or realize until the next morning. I didn’t recall much of the night and much less when I got home to my couch to sleep. Some how I had arisen in my bed, hair saturated with water, and my vagina was sore. My neighbor said this person had come inside of my house with me and she had eventually left, with him still in my house. Great battle buddy indeed. Anyway, I brushed off the incident since I didn’t remember anything and didn’t want to make a big deal about it. After all, it was nothing right?

The following day after the incident we went about our day, grocery shopping, mall, lunch, the usual things military spouses and members do on the weekend. I didn’t know where my phone was and chalked it up to being loss in my drunken stupor. Night fell quickly, and I was feeling better about what had happened earlier in the day. My neighbor came over, which on occasion I would be the one over at her house. A fellow Marine I knew was having a rough day so I invited them to come over as well. We were siting in my living room and watched movies on my television. I left my door unlocked because I was living on base. Obviously nothing bad happens on military bases. Ever. In walks the Marine from the other night and it kind of shocked me. I didn’t invite him to come over and he walk through my door like he owned the place. I didn’t want to start any trouble or anything to that effect. I went to the kitchen and called my neighbor. I told her I felt “weird” and was feeling tired. I went outside with her and we smoked several cigarettes. After this, I went upstairs to my bedroom locked the door. They continued to drink and talk downstairs. I changed into a pair of pajamas I had, and looked forward to jumping in my bed. New sheets and comforter so that when my husband came home he would be impressed I put an effort to making his return joyous. We had moved in fairly recently and didn’t really have things like coffee tables and decorations. All of which I bought that weekend. I woke up at 3 or 4 that morning to my pajama bottoms being ripped off. I could see his outline, I could smell him. I knew who it was.

My friend, my fellow Marine I had known for a long time, doing the unthinkable. I knew my other male marine friend was in the other room because he would never drive after drinking. I went to yell for him but he told me not to and covered my mouth. He continued to do as he please, all the while I struggled. I was scared. I was angry. I was hurt. I finally was able to kick him off of me. He went to grab his stuff; I pulled the comforter over my head. I heard the door click shut. I cried myself to sleep that night. The following morning I woke up to another female marine I was very close to shaking me. She had entered through the garage after my husband instructed her to check on me since neither one could get a hold of me. We were to go to the beach that morning. I moved the sheets to find that I was sitting in a pool of blood. I didn’t know what was going on. I yelled at her and threw her out. Its always the ones we love we hurt the most. I jumped in the shower and cried and cried until I had no more tears. I got dressed and headed down stairs. The marine who had stayed in the other room was sitting on the couch, after having cleaned up a bit. I sat on the couch and told him everything. He asked me what did I want to do. We both knew if I said anything, bad always comes down the pipeline. I wanted to pretend that nothing happened. I knew if I said something everything I held to be good and true in the world would come crashing down and it would make the Rape real. It’s still difficult to say he raped me. We went to the gas station so that I could fill up my SUV. When we got there I saw my friend. She had been through the same circumstances. I grabbed her and hugged her and told her everything. She held me close and said you need to tell the police. I looked and her said I can’t. I’m scared. You know what’ll happen. No one will believe me. She respected me enough to let me make that decision on my own. Later that day I mustered enough will power to tell my husband what happened. I reported the incident to the police.

I knew once I said this it was going to become a mad house in my battalion. It took a long time before the police convinced me to give them his name. Marines would called me liar. I was ridiculed and forced to sit through SAPR training which contains a reenactment of a rape. Worse of all, I would have a battalion that would not support me and force me to work with this Marine, in the same unit, only 10 feet away everyday. All the Marines I knew would shun me and turn their backs. Marines would drive by and yell obscenities as I walked down the street. I said what was happening to me after I reported the rape to the Battalion Commander. I was told not to complain and ‘Duty before self’. I was discharged from the Marine Corps four months later. Several other female marines came forward with their stories of rape from the same Marine. After seeing how I was treated, all retracted their statements. I don’t blame them. A Marine on duty has no friends. No room for doubt in the Marine Corps Fidelity.