While in service one woman in particular, YN1 Kori Heath, was one of the leaders of the abuse. On a daily basis I had to hear from her what a good for nothing non-rate that I am. She’ll scream at me and be angry because according to her I have lied about the rape and that I am an evil human being. She did this to many women who were of lower rank than her. Heath was also my victim advocate until they said that she was not the best or most sensitive person for the job and gave the position to someone almost as bad but with more rank.
After I was discharged from the United States Coast Guard for reporting a rape I got myself a civilian seasonal job with another governmental agency. At that job we have an event space that we rented out to agencies and organizations.
One day I was at work and found out that the Coast Guard rented out that space. I was doing my job and it was time for lunch. Before I went outside for lunch I went down the hall to the restroom as the event was coming to an end. I used the restroom, then walked down the stairs. The layout of this space was that we had one grand staircase with each floor overlooking the staircase. It is a historic building so think of something very grand and beautiful.
The Coast Guard hired civilian police agents (think mall cops) and they said hello to me as I was leaving the building. I crossed the street to the opposite direction of where I was to buy lunch to use the ATM to get some money to buy my lunch. I crossed my tracks back towards the building which is in the direction of the restaurant. The mall cop who just said hello to me called me to go towards him so I did and he said “a Petty Officer Kori Heath said that you were threatening her” I said that “I did not say anything to her” and he said “well I am telling ****” Who is my supervisor’s, supervisor, supervisor, basically the Boss of everybody.
I felt that I should tell my boss what happened before he hears it from somebody else. So instead of lunch I went to the other building (we had two buildings, the offices and the event space) and told my supervisor.
At first my supervisor, unaware of the rape, my horrible treatment in the Coast Guard, etc. and who is a hardcore Vietnam-era veteran was telling me “well, why would she lie?” I was trying to explain to him how horribly that I was treated but at the same time I did not want to tell my boss that I was raped. He got angry at me at first and told me to go home. I went home.
Next day I went back to work and he called me back into his office and him and his supervisor was there and wanted me to tell them both what happened with YN1 Kori Heath so I said. “I went on my lunch break, stopped at the restroom before I went to get my lunch. I did not talk to anybody. I basically was running down the stairs not wanting anyone to see me. I was in uniform so it no mistake that I belong there in the first place. I did not talk to anybody nor did I made any threats.”
My supervisor and his supervisor said that they believe me. It turns out that after I left the day before, they spoken to my colleague who was there and confirmed that I was no less than 20 feet away from anyone in the Coast Guard at all times so it not even possible for me to have said anything. The surveillance tapes also shows that I never confronted Kori Heath nor anyone in the Coast Guard. As a matter of fact the tape shows that Kori Heath was up in the balcony area with the Honor Guard team, looked down, saw me and ran out and told the rent-a-cop. The statement given from the officer on what YN1 Kori Heath told him did not match the description of the surveillance tape and the witness. In other words Yeoman Kori Heath was caught in a lie. My supervisor felt that it was in retaliation for reporting a rape and said that I handled the entire situation very maturely.
With my colleague as a witness, the tape and the statement we went and filed an official report against Kori Heath in case she ever tried to pull the same trick again.I chose not to press any charges against her. Even after what she did she is still my shipmate. You don’t do that to a shipmate. Of course if she pulls the same trick again I would press charges.
The remaining few months that I was working there was extremely awkward since everyone knew about the rape. My supervisor was trying to be supportive but I knew he did not know what to do. He said “you can take as much time off as you need to go to appointments” and I knew it was strange for him too. My supervisor was an awesome guy but I felt that he was treating me, with the best intentions, with kids gloves. I did not want that.
After the season ended I was one of the few who were invited to work under contract for a longer term. If it was not for the incident with YN1 Kori Heath I probably would have accepted it, but being so fresh out of the Coast Guard the last thing that I wanted was to be known as the rape survivor. I wanted a job where I can just be known for me and my work performance and not the woman who was raped in the Coast Guard.
Kori Heath eventually was severely punished for unrelated reasons regarding some fraud and unethical behavior on how she handled Honor Guard duties. I ended up backpacking Europe for a while and while there I faxed my resume and landed a job back in the US while still on vacation.
Everything did work out for me but the main reason that I am writing this post is to show you how people are treating rape survivors in the Coast Guard in such an unethical and inhumane way even after they left the service! Heath’s behavior eventually caught up to her but this never should have happened in the first place.
The rape victim is never at fault for the rape but some members of the Coast Guard would go to great length to cover up the assault for “the reputation of the Coast Guard” that in the end the only ones that they are hurting are themselves when the truth come out.
We now have a voice through this blog to share our stories to help us heal and to help prevent what happened to us to happen to others. I hope that the Coast Guard reads this and prevent others from being abused in this way by Kori Heath or anybody else.
My shipmates and I deserve better.