NO means it was not consensual

Maine, United States Army

My unit & I had been deployed in Iraq for approximately 10 months when I was sexually assaulted by my squad leader and a squad sized group of individuals.

The main perpetrator was my squad leader, along with four other male assailants. The assault occurred right before Christmas Day. Although I am unable to recall which exact day it happened, I do know that it was either Dec ember 22nd or 23rd of the year 2004. It occurred on Tallil Air Base, Iraq. It was not unusual for the squad leader to call a squad meeting late in the evening, after dark. ( 21:00 or sometimes later) He did this so that my squad would know what to expect for missions and to pass on general information. I would attend these meetings because I was required to do so. He held the meetings in his personal quarters, with the entire squad participating.

The night of my sexual assault, SSG (squad leaer) knocked on the door of my quarters, about 20:00. He told me to come with him to his squad meeting. I did as I was told. My entire squad was there in his living container quarters, which then SSG (squad leader) proceeded with his meeting. It was the ordinary agenda, just upcoming mission information. After the meeting, half of the squad immediately left SSG (squad leader’s) quarters. When I went to leave, SSG (Squad leader) suggested that I “stick around for a little while longer”. One of the assailants had received two 30 can cases of Budweiser beer in the mail, from a friend as an apparent Christmas gift. (Although it was against the general orders, consuming alcohol was very common for those in my unit. People got creative in order to obtain alcoholic beverages and did so often.

I did not partake in the consumption of the alcohol at all during my tour until the night of the assault) SSG (squad leader) and the other individuals present starting to drink the beer. They started to gather around me, and soon I was unable to physically leave. SSG put an open can of beer in my hand and told me to drink it. Since SSG (squad leader) told me to drink the beer, I trusted him, so I did. I drank the beer, which seemed to hit me very hard. It only took one beer to debilitate me. In retrospect, I have suspected that the open can of beer handed to me was probably spiked with a date rape drug. In fact, one of the perpetrators, had been in trouble with the law before deployment involving drug related charges as well being reprimanded for operating under the influence while in Iraq. With that being said, this particular soldier could have easily gotten a hold of certain contraband items, such as a variety of drugs.

While lying flat on my back on a bunk, I could see and hear what was going on, but could not move. I was terribly frightened, confused and in shock. I do not remember how my clothes came off, but before I knew it, I was completely nude and surrounded. SSG (sqaud leader) then proceeded to put his penis in my mouth and told me to “suck it”. I did as I was told because I didn’t know what else to do. At one point I remember SSG (sqaud leader) on top of me, and I said that “I don’t want to do this! Let me go! Stop doing that!!” The others in the room just laughed when I started crying, and SSG (squad leader) said “Come on, You know you want this! You’ve been asking for this the whole time we’ve been here.” SPC (co- assailant 1) stated that He wanted to get his camera and “film the action!” I begged and pleaded at him to not do that. SPC (assailant -2) seemed reluctant to touch me at first but was egged on by the others to “take advantage of the pussy.” SPC (assailant -4) bent me over the bunk and forced himself from behind. After that particular moment, I closed my eyes and blacked out. I came in and out of consciousness.

In the moments I remember during this phase, I was crying and just doing what I was told. I was able to sit up, and then SPC (co-assailant) told me to “suck his cock!” When I was finished doing so, SPC (co-assailnant 1) said “You are a goddess! I’m walking funny now!” SPC (co-assailant3) then bent me forward over the bunk and proceeded to rape me from behind. At this point, I could no longer feel anything in my genitals. SPC (co-assailant 2) laid me flat on my back on the bunk again. He proceeded to grab my breasts and put his penis between them, and ejaculated on my chest. I did not resist, as I was too fearful. At this point, I lost consciousness.

When I came to, I had my clothes back on, except for my bra. I felt very sick to my stomach and dizzy, but I managed to walk myself back to my quarters. I cried numerous times the next morning. For the first time, I felt suicidal. In fact, I had a specific plan in mind, to take my own life with my M-16 rifle in a remote part of Talill Air Base. At this point, I lost consciousness. When I came to, I had my clothes back on, except for my bra. I felt very sick to my stomach and dizzy, but I managed to walk myself back to my quarters. I cried numerous times the next morning. For the first time, I felt suicidal. In fact, I had a specific plan in mind, to take my own life with my M-16 rifle in a remote part of Talill Air Base. At the last minute I got a letter from my mother and it was then that I decided not to follow through with my plan. While these individuals were present in the event my rape, I place the chief accountability on SSG (squad leader). SSG (squad-leader) was the only NCO present as well, and if he had any integrity and character at all, he would have stopped this incident. He was my first line supervisor and the “ringleader” in my sexual assault. In retrospect, it seemed as through SPC (co-assailant 2), SPC (co-assailant 3), and SPC (co-assailant 4) were simply giving into the peer pressure, and I also did not resist or say no to these three individuals. I don’t know what ever became of SPC (co-assailant 1). A few days later, my platoon sergeant approached me in a private location. He told me that he knew what happened. He then went on to ask me if it was in fact consentual. Because I was too afraid to say otherwise, I said yes, it was consentual, but felt very bad about myself. I told him that I “felt like a whore” and that I wanted to talk to a Chaplain about what happened. I was advised not to not tell anyone about the incident, especially a chaplain. He reason being that if I told a Chaplain, I would get in serious trouble, especially because I was drinking. Fearing that I would get punished for drinking, I decided to keep quiet. However, SPC (co-assailant 1)was telling people throughout the 619th about what happened. I started to receive sexual taunts from other soldiers. Many of them coming up to me and saying things like “I heard you give good head!” or “How about a titty f*ck?” and similar comments. This sexual harassment persisted when I returned stateside within the 619th.

After being home for about 6 months, I started to receive phone calls from various soldiers who identified themselves as “investigators” One who called me very often said that He was LT from 94th headquarters (The battalion the 619th answered to) kept asking questions about the incident. I was offered no sort of advocate in that so-called investigation. During this investigation, I was extremely fearful of telling the truth. I feared for my personal safety at home, since I single at the time and lived alone, and knew my main perpetrator, SSG (squad leader) lived in the same state as I did. I feared physical harm and retaliation if I came forward even after the deployment.

About a year after returning from Iraq, I was told that I would have to face displinary actions for “indecent sexual acts”. SSG (squad leader), SPC (co-assailant 3) and myself had to travel together to Brockton, Massachusetts. I felt extremely uncomfortable and sick to my stomach. I didn’t want to go, especially riding in the same vehicle as SSG (squad leader) and SPC (co-assailant 3. I even felt suicidal again. I was made to stand at parade rest in front of Lt. Colonel Corkery, and explain my actions. I was the ONLY female soldier present at this Article 15 hearing. I stood at the desk and faced the Lt.COL Corkery completely alone, and there were other unknown male soldiers present. Again, I was offered NO advocate or even a chaperone. Lt. COL Corkery made me feel extremely bad about myself. He did his best at making feel even more ashamed and embarrassed, including telling me that “I was an embarrassment to the Army, and to all the female soldiers who came before me.” I received an article 15, but before leaving his office, Lt. COL Corkery said “as long as you stay out of trouble, I will remove the article 15 from your record.” I have no idea if this article 15 is still in my 201 file, but I have never had any article 15’s or similar disciplinary actions before or since this incident.

He made a copy of the charges against me, which was the violation of general orders (the consumption of alcohol while in Iraq) and indecent sexual acts, blacked out my name, and put it on the 619th bulletin board for the whole unit to see. My name wasn’t blacked out very well and still legible, so everyone in the unit knew it was me. I had thought my obligation to active reserve was completed, so I left the 619th.

I missed being a soldier, so I thought that I could do well in the Maine Army National Guard. Things went very well with my new unit and I even got promoted to SGT E-5. The Maine National Guard treated me well. I even started to date again and met my husband., who is my biggest advocate and is Marine Corp Veteran.

One comment

  1. I am very sorry to hear about what happened to you. When I read your story I was angry- there were multiple people and witnesses involved in your rape and all of them failed to help you. That is a shame. I am angry that the “investigators” failed to investigate furthur into whether or not it was consensual. They did not do their job.
    And I am saddened to hear that you had contemplated suicide and that you did not feel that you could report the rape. It is awful that they punished you and awful that the Lt.Col made you feel bad. I wish that one of the witnesses had stepped up and helped you.
    I do not know you but I am here for you, and I am also a victim, though everyone’s story is different so I will not say that I understand how you feel but I can say that I can relate a little bit to what you went through. I hope that you are able to share your story with others one day and know that there ARE people who care and who are humane. We need to make changes and now is the time to do that. I will not stop fighting for us! Continue to stay strong and if you ever want to talk- about anything at all, please contact me. Not because I feel bad for you or pity you, but because I went through it too and helping others heal helps me heal and feel like I’m not alone in this.
    Stay Strong and continue to fight.
    – Ashley.

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