Katie, United States Army
I joined the Active Duty Army in September of 1993 to serve my Country, earn some college money and possibly make a career out of being a soldier. I was 17. 6 months after joining the Army, I was given my first set of orders, and I was headed to Germany. I ended up in a small unit (less than 30) on an almost desolate Army post in Nuernberg-Fuerth, Germany. The amenities I had seen on all the other posts I had served at were almost null at my new post, including an MP station. My first week in Germany, I was moved into some barracks (the same ones they held the Nuernberg trial prisoners in after the Holocaust) and was told I would need to purchase a hot plate (plug in stove) and some pots and pans to cook the food I would eat. There was no chow hall. I was just a kid, so the idea of caring for myself in this way was scary. I had not yet received my monthly paycheck from the Army, so my Staff Sergeant took me to the finance office and told me to walk back to our unit when I was done talking to a male Specialist. He and I made small talk, such as that he is from the same town in Illinois that I am. Small world, I thought, and I felt I had made a new friend. I was issued an Army paycheck by him that very day. That day I went and bought my kitchen and food stuff and some new civilian clothes since I owned none. This was the first time in 6 months I would be able to wear civilian clothes because the whole time I had been in the Army, I had to be in uniform.
That evening I felt so pretty in my new skirt. Me and a few other lower enlisted went by taxi to huge German club in Nuernberg that was set up with different levels, playing all different kinds of music. The specialist “Chris” from finance was at this club with his pregnant wife. We said hello and I thanked him so much for getting me my much needed paycheck. After about an hour and a half of dancing and laughing with my new Army buddies, that finance specialist asked me to come outside with him because he needed to tell me something about my paychecks and it would be quieter outside. He said he knew a cool spot to have a smoke and chill, and walked me to the side of the building and up three stories of a large, walk-able fire escape. I began to sit on a step and he stopped me from doing that and began to kiss me. I resisted and he turned me around so my rear was at his front. He aggressively kicked my legs apart like an expert at this, and tore the back of my skirt open, pulled my underpants, nylons and shoes off and threw them over the railing. He forced himself on me and raped me. At this time I had my hands holding me up as best as I could so I could breathe because he had bent me over the iron railing and I could barely breathe because the bar of it was pressing against my stomach/diaphragm. He completed his rape of me and then wanted oral copulation. I resisted and he forced. I found an opportunity to push away to run down the fire escape back to safety but he grabbed me and threw me onto the stairs. I began “faking” this blow job and then tried to get away again, this time he pushed me back onto the railing. I saw no other alternative than to try to climb over it to get away from him, but before I could get any sort of footing, he pushed me. I fell straight down 3 stories and woke up a few minutes later. I was disoriented but felt a desperate need to run. My skirt was torn and my bare bottom was hanging out. I had nothing else on.
I grabbed the back of my skirt and hailed a taxi (because of the Americans, there were about 8 of them just waiting to give someone a ride outside of the club.) When I got home, I immediately took a shower. I worried that the people I had gone with had no idea where I had gone. I knew I should have told them before I left. It was m my fault I trusted that guy. I went to bed crying and wearing alot of clothes. I woke up the next morning and had to walk in the dark to do P.T. at 5 a.m.. I “fell out” of the run because of cervical pain, bleeding and emotional pain. I could barely stop bawling and hyperventilating. At that time I just blurted out with tears and pain to another female soldier “Denise” whom I was running with what had happened to me the night before. She immediately told me I was a fuckin liar and a slut. She insisted in a really mean way there was no way that the rapist would do what he did to me because he has kids and a wife and she knows him personally. She told my Staff Sergeant the same thing, and he advised me I was not to say another word about that kind of crap. I insisted on going to sick call but was refused.
That afternoon, as I entered my room in the barracks, the rapist was in my room. I have no idea how he got in, but he was hiding behind my door so when I closed my door, he locked me in. He told me that “Denise” had immediately gone to his place of work and yelled at him in front of his coworkers saying “some white girl says you raped her and you need to take care of her because she is going around telling everyone”. He told me that because I am from the San Francisco area, I could have AIDS and he threatened and demanded I get an AIDS test immediately and show him the results. My neighbor at the time was “Denise” the girl from the run, and I heard her door open. I knew she didn’t believe me, but I was going to tell her. The rapist then opened the German windows and left that way. If I told Denise, she wouldn’t have believed me. She was 30 something and had made her feelings about the rape clear to me so I wasn’t going to keep asking her for help. I was so scared. I had wall lockers in my room all over….about 20, no joke. I was so scared every day and night that someone was hiding in one of them for sure and I would be killed in that room. I was too scared to tell anyone about the rape any more because I did not know who I could trust, but so far it was no one.
I was already being called a whore and a bitch and a slut by my peers and the guys were warning each other that “this one will accuse you of rape so stay away from her”. It was horrible and I couldn’t get them to stop avoiding me except to name call or harass me. I was so alone. I called home and my friends told me to tell, but I felt I was stuck and telling would end up getting me killed by these people. I was just a teenager. I went to sick call the day after the rape and asked for an AIDS test. They asked me why, since I had just done one less than two weeks prior in order to deploy to Germany. I advised the Nurse that a male soldier had forced sex on me the day before and was demanding this re-test. They complied and did not ask any further questions. I had hoped they would be the ones to fucking save me from my feelings of abandonment and press charges and take care of me and the safety of other women on post, but the nurse and doctor seemed surprisingly unalarmed or phased whatsoever.
The rapist returned to my barracks twice more over the next few weeks. The last time he was in my room, I showed him the results I had received from the clinic. I never spoke to him again, but I did see him a lot. I was harassed by my peers with name calling, ostracizing and a lot of teasing with relation to our work days. It was horrible and I wanted to kill myself. I hung in there for a year until I was discharged honorably, days after I found my lieutenant was sleeping with my roommate (which is seriously prohibited). The lieutenant was in charge of fitness testing at my unit and he altered my height by one inch and increased my weight to exceed standards. I was back in California within a week and I slept on my moms’ couch for weeks. My depression was severe and I sought help at the VA Clinic for PTSD within the first year of my discharge.
My rape was 17 years ago. Since then I have suffered pain and anxiety in my life that I truly believe I otherwise would not have. Before I went into the Army, I was a strong, beautiful girl. Today I am still strong and beautiful but I am also severely emotionally crippled by persistent thoughts and memories of this traumatic rape and my “loss of innocence”. I have had great jobs. I bought a home when I was 23, had a 911 dispatching job, then when I was sexually stalked and harassed by a female supervisor, something inside me snapped. Instead of killing her like I wanted to do, I just emotionally crumbled. Like literally. I went to my big bosses office, shut the door and cried and collapsed into a ball on his floor. I stopped working at that point and realized I had a serious problem to deal with. I began to abuse my prescribed pain medication from the VA, and began to hide behind a wall of weight out of fear that I may be raped again. It was like her harassing me triggered it all and I just lost it. I had a 4 year old daughter to care for, and if it weren’t for my mother, I would have lost her. I have had suicidal tendencies, relationship problems, substance abuse issues, parenting difficulties, nightmares, unrealistic fears, exhausting hyper-vigilance, severe and debilitating depression and anxiety, and difficulty keeping friends and a job. I have not worked in 6 years and have been “awarded” 100% service connection by the Department of Veterans Affairs. I fear that if I get better, they will take my benefits away. I am clean and sober now. So long as I take care of myself full time, and my kids, I have no time left for a job.
Here is what I have had to actively do in order to get to and maintain a manageable, functional life for myself and my family:
1. Stay clean and sober, go to NA/AA meetings, get a sponsor, work the steps.
2. VA Substance Abuse group 2 x a week-all men but me. It’s kind of awkward, but I have no other options.
3. VA Psychologist once a week
4. VA seeking safety class once a week-women only
5. PTSD/meditation group once a week-all men
6. Take Prozac and Trazodone for my depression/anxiety
Not to mention the therapy I pay cash for and have both of my children in privately, and the couples counseling my spouse and I need to be in but cannot afford. Other notable and discouraging, but true facts are: being I only have VA coverage for medical insurance, when I need an OB exam, I have to drive 70 miles north to be examined by a different doctor (and student) every time. I really wish that fee basis would pay for me to pick a female doc locally that I feel safe and comfortable with to see when I have issues. I have so much anxiety before an OB exam that sometimes I don’t leave the house for a week before or after the appointment. The fear can paralyze me, and the exams traumatize me.
As a female MST Veteran, I have not found many others like me who can keep up with that type of self-help schedule. I just do it because the other alternative for me is death by overdose or suicide. Many are homeless, and many are mentally ill to a point that they can’t even accept help. Some are so addicted to some mind or mood altering substance (alot of which are prescribed by the VA) and don’t want to feel another feeling ever again in their life. I get it, and I have done that for the past 15 years with weed, opiates and benzos. Anything I could take to feel comfortable in my skin. I do sometimes feel like I am the only one in the world that is fighting this MST and depression. I know now that there are thousands, or more, but I know that many don’t want to ever tell about being raped in the service EVER AGAIN because they were rejected when they reported it happening so many times before.
I have watched other MST survivors succumb to the guilt and shame they STILL feel 30 years later, from being blamed for rape happening to them. The constant banter and lack of support they got from their peers, command, family and others has taken a toll on their confidence in what is right or fair and they can no longer fight the good fight. If everyone around you is telling you that you are nuts and that anything that happened was a result of your bad judgement, you tend to doubt yourself. It’s like an acceptable form of Chinese water torture. The same mantras get repeated over and over again, ultimately coercing one to believe that in fact the violent rape he or she experienced was ultimately that victims’ fault. Frankly I don’t blame the other survivors I know that are still suffering for wanting to stay loaded or die, for this type of pain I feel is indescribable and very few people know how to handle it. I have no idea why God has chosen me to survive, but I am so thankful! I will continue to try and help convince other MST survivors that they too can recover from MST and addiction. Basically, we all need to be heard, validated, nurtured and learn to live again. I haven’t cried since I quit the pills. I know there is a lot more I have yet to feel, but thanks to the VA treatment I have just begun to get in the past 5 years, MRCC, SWAN, and others like me who are speaking out and pleading for change, I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE!!!!