Senior Chief ordered to cease talking to a shipmate that reported rape.

I am a Senior Chief with the US Coast Guard. I am writing this because I need help. I mentored hundreds of people throughout my career. A SN that I mentored early on in his career made it to Chief and I helped him through every step of the way. Throughout all of these years I kept in contact with almost everyone that I ever served with.  A woman that reported a rape was no exception.

After her command discovered e-mails between the rape victim and me I was forced to cease all communications with her. All the emails were professional and sent through Coast Guard email. Emails to her were similar to what I have sent to my other mentees.  I advised her about staying focus and shared my experience and insight with her. Often I send out the same motivational email to all who consider me a mentor. She not once mentioned her rape or anything that might hinder the investigation.

I read every single Coast Guard story on here and it saddens me.  The posting about a woman that was invited to the base and later was turned away, humiliated and harassed because she was a rape victim angers me.  In another posting a woman wrote that her two brothers in the Coast Guard felt that rape victims are skanky that do not deserve even an investigation? There are the many victims that posted that they did not receive an investigation even if they wanted to go with an unrestricted reporting which is clearly against violation but who is holding anybody accountable?

The Coast Guard was very good to my family and me.  I am always the first to defend every negative press about the Coast Guard from our response to the oil spill to the embarrassment of Deepwater. At this point I am lost. I am angry with the Coast Guard for putting me in a situation to choose between an organization that I love and a shipmate that was raped.   I no longer want to work for an organization that tells me that I cannot speak to someone because they have been raped but I also know that my family and livelihood depends on this job.

Advice?

11 comments

  1. Senior Chief,

    Thank you so much for posting. I am former Coast Guard and posted about my experience on here as well. I got out of the Coast Guard after only a year and a half based on my experiences…

    It’s a difficult place to find yourself. You invest give years of your life to an organization that you love, yet it has such a huge flaw where rape and harassment is concerned.

    Advice? From the perspective of a survivor and fighter, stay in – the Coast Guard needs you. That is the problem. People often become disillusioned with the way things are and want to separate themselves from it (like me). But the reality is, if everyone who believes what’s going on leaves, there are no “good guys” left. Then where will victims be? Just something to think on.

    - Elisha

  2. Senior Chief,

    What is the worst that can happen if you continue mentoring her/talking to her? I know that you spent 15, 20 years in the Coast Guard and always been taught to obey orders. It seems to me that you have been ordered to do something and your conscience is uneasy about it. Talking to a shipmate is not illegal.

    What I can tell from your posting is that you are someone that loves the Coast Guard. You want others to succeed and you go above and beyond to help those around you. You sound like a model Coast Guardsman to me.

    What you are describing is very common especially in the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard ostracizes every survivor that comes forward. The problem is not that you are mentoring her but because she has support. It worries me if others who are in communication with the survivor, and don’t have your courage, would stop talking to her because the Coast Guard wants to continue the abuse against her.

    The Coast Guard has the reputation for threatening others to “stay away from rape victims”. The Coast Guard even threatened SARCs from other branches of services for helping survivors in the Coast Guard (survivors that turned to SARCs of other branches of service because the CG did not have the resources to help them) and also for partnering up with organizations that help Coast Guard rape survivors. The Coast Guard gave the DoD SARCS the childish “don’t talk to so and so or else..” threat. Obviously the SARCs came to MRCC, other agencies and to their command to report the Coast Guard instead of listening to the Coast Guard. The Congress is currently investigating the Coast Guard.

    I can not tell if you are a male or a female. Regardless you are someone that the Coast Guard needs to make a difference from the inside. Ideally you’ll continue helping the rape survivor but I know how difficult that might be. If you can only say one thing to her please let her know of MRCC and the services that they offer. You might not be able to speak to her but the staff at MRCC can.

    Since you are a Senior Chief I assume that there are many under your command. You might not be able to change the pathetic Coast Guard “rape prevention” curriculum but you are certainly in the position to dismiss rape myths and talk to those who are under you about what they can do to prevent the rape culture that is so dominant in the Coast Guard. Also talk to those who consider you a mentor and talk to them about rape.

    MRCC has many volunteers who are Active Duty in the Coast Guard. They might not be able to publicly say that they are helping rape survivors (because many received similar threats like you did) but they are doing their small part. It does not matter if you are an E-2 or an 0-10 you can still make a difference in battling the rape culture in the Coast Guard. Even talking to one person and say that it is not okay to say a rape joke or to talk badly about a rape survivor does make a difference.

    How you deal with the situation regarding the threat to cease communications with a rape survivor is 100% up to you. What I am only asking you for is to let her know that there is help out there (legal, mental health, peer support) and that she does not need to be alone in all of this. If I was you though I would stick up for myself, tell them that you have done nothing wrong, to point out what they felt was wrong. If you are having similar conversations with others they should force you to stop talking to all of your “mentee” and not just the rape survivor. The fact that they targeted only the rape survivor is wrong.

    I think you should stay in. We need the good guys to stay in to make a change.

  3. Ideally you’ll ignore it and continue being the awesome Coast Guardsman that you are. However realistically if you ignore them they will slap you with an Article 92 and possibly an Article 134.

    Contact Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s office at StopMilitaryRape@Mail.House.Gov

    Even if you don’t want the Congress to investigate they can at least note it. They also read this site but it’ll be best if you send them an email directly.

  4. Stop using your Coast Guard computer and email to communicate with her. Exchange personal email addresses and don’t check your email at work! In the perfect world somebody that helps a rape survivor won’t be treated as badly are you are right now but for the Coast Guard if you are a rape survivor you are a crazy, lying, whore and they warn everyone to stay away from those that report rape. Nothing new. It won’t take long before they start telling you that she is against the Coast Guard. That she lied about the rape. That she might accuse you of rape too. That is she psycho and crazy. We heard this all before from hundreds if not thousands of rape survivors. Of course her command and your command is also going to tell you she is this absolutely horrible person for reporting a rape!

    if you think what you are going through is bad imagine the shit that they are putting her through.

    Out of curiosity are you allowed to talk to the rapist or is that forbidden too? Never mind don’t answer it. I already know the answer.

  5. Why don’t you grow some balls and tell whoever is telling you to re-victimize this woman that you won’t do it. I hope you made it to Senior Chief by being a hard working, ethical Coast Guardsmen and not like the douche bags out there that have the rank because they stepped over every person that got in their way—and turned a blind eye at all the corruption that they have witnessed.

    I am going to say that her rank is less than that of a Senior Chief. She NEEDS your leadership. How about every person that looks up to you? Do you want them to see you turning away from this woman at her darkest hour? How is that going to portray your image to those who view you so highly?

    What if she was your daughter? How would you want people to treat her? With respect or like she has some contagious disease that you’ll catch even by sending her an email?

  6. This was so very brave of you to come forward & share your story of trying to do the right thing. God Bless you for being one of the good guys!!!

  7. Do what is ethical. I think that you already know what to do. The only thing that we can hope for is that others who been ordered to cease speaking to a rape victims can read this and realize that they might have been told to do is not always the right thing to do. Telling a rape survivor that you can not talk to her hurts more than just the rape survivor.

  8. I am a female Navy veteran, after 6 years of service, two rapes, and having my chain of command turn away from me, I can sympathize with this mentee of yours. When I was raped the first time, I had had a little too much to drink. I reported it, and I was told it was my fault, that I was looking for it, and therefore, deserved it. I believed it, because I didn’t know any better. I went on blaming myself for a few months, until it happened again. We were out on liberty having dinner. I was with two guys whom I thought I trusted, and two of their friends who were not in the military, but were locals (all 4 of them guys). I had received that training that said “don’t leave your drink unattended at clubs or bars”, but I was in a restaurant with people I thought I trusted. I left for the bathroom. Came back, finished my meal and then it’s all hazy. I remember being tied to a bed. I have snippets of memory of the 4 guys taking turns at me. I remember lying naked, tied to the bed and crying. I’m not sure how I got back to base. All I know is that my vagina hurt a lot. And I was afraid of reporting it, because they would surely tell me I deserved it for leaving my drink unattended. After three days and still being in pain, I went to report it to my chain of command. I was told this time, that it was too late to report it, because all evidence left on me would be gone by now. I swallowed hard to tell this to a male LPO, but I told him my vagina was in a lot of pain, and surely an examination would show that I was sexually brutalized. He asked me if I had done a rape kit. What the hell was a rape kit? No one ever told me what that was, so I said no, because no, I did not have a rape kit done. They told me I had no case, and that I would look ridiculous accusing my rapists, who had already PCS’d somewhere else anyway. I remember standing there numb. When the other petty officer from my first rape came around, my LPO asked him what should we do about me. This other petty officer said “she likes to make rapes up. this is the second time she’s trying this shit” I left for my dorm room and cried for hours. My roommates were wondering what had happened. I had no courage to tell them what had happened and how I would have to just “suck it up” I just told them I had gotten news that my grandpa died (grandpa died in 84, not 04). I started having problems with authority. I was referred to a psychologist, who in spite of my telling him what had happened, insisted in wanting to know how was my childhood. My childhood had nothing to do with being raped.

    Why do I share this whole story with you? Because if I had had a mentor like you, I would have sought your help after my chain of command failed me twice. And maybe, as a Sr Chief you still have to follow orders to not communicate with this mentee of yours, but as a human being, what would you do? Send one last innocent e-mail, from your personal computer and your personal e-mail address, and express to her that you have been ordered not to talk to her, but you want to be of help. Don’t fail her. Maybe the SARCs are a bad idea, from what I know and have read. But maybe have her reach out to a civilian organization. When my chain of command failed me, and the psychologist failed me, I started spiraling into a deep depression that nearly cost me my life, as I attempted suicide, because I felt lonely, isolated, and hopeless.

    Then, as an E3, I had no idea that I could seek help from civilian authorities, at least in the sense that I could get some sort of treatment or help, like from RAINN.org. And there’s also a DOD-wide safe help line- it’s confidential and over the internet… http://www.safehelpline.org

    I don’t know what kind of trouble E8s like you can get into if you disobey an order, or what kind of cost it would have to your career. I’m suggesting you disobey, but it is probably not recommendable. Look for a creative way to stay in touch with her somehow. I’m sure it takes some brain to be an E8 who mentors seamen… use it and don’t fail her.

  9. Senior Chief,

    First of all thank you for writing this very important testimony. What you are describing is very common in the U.S Coast Guard. As a survivor of rape while serving in the Coast Guard I have to disagree with what her command is forcing you to do. I hope that you do not turn your back on a shipmate that needs you.

    Panayiota

  10. The same thing happened to me. I actually witnessed an attempted gang rape. I was able to stop it. I went to help the woman report it and was told to shut up, forget what I witnessed and to stay away from the rape victim. The attempted rape happened on base in the middle of a work day.

    Same victim (see above) was also told by a Senior Chief who was her DIRECT SUPERVISOR that he was told not to talk to her. Senior Chief Jeff A. Gardner is this you that wrote this post?

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