Soldier speaks about abuse

J, United States Army

 I have been on the sidelines for a number of years, a secret survivor, cheering on those who were standing up, telling their stories. I’ve realized I cannot hide anymore. Hiding for me, has been a way to deny that what happened to me was real, a way to hide from the devastating emotional impacts of surviving.

I enlisted in the Army reserves in Sept of 2005- I had dreamed of enlisting for years – growing up everyone said I was going to be a ministry or a soldier. Although my ASVAB scores qualified me for many jobs, I really wanted to be in the Military Police (31B). I arrive at Ft. Leonard Wood for One Station Unit Training (OSUT) in the middle of the night, having taken the 3 hour bus ride from St. Louis. Honestly, from that point until I left reception, my military experience was pretty normal. Long lines – paperwork, shots, clothing, powerpoints. I got to my training company and things went fine as far as red phase of boots camp goes. The usual long hours, fast pace, never any down time. After a while things began to slow down and we settled into a training routine. That all changed during the winter. I was the victim of non-consensual sodomy and indecent assault when a fellow trainee sexually assaulted me one night after lights out.

The assault quickly became my darkest secret. All through OSUT I pretended it didn’t happen and just tried to ignore it… but by January 2006, the guilt, shame and confusion had grown too much to handle. During a quiet period about 5 or 6 weeks before graduation, I attempt suicide. I had my military belt set up to hang myself in the showers, but I was interrupted by a fellow trainee known as “Mormon” (because he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). He must have sensed something other than homesickness was wrong and just sat and talked with me for what felt like forever. It was probably only a few minutes, but it was enough to stop me.

I didn’t tell him what had happened… it was still my secret… Later, in February of 2006, in a hazing incident, I was grabbed and duct taped in our sleeping bay. Although this was unrelated to the assault it just furthered the feelings of depression and shame.

The final humiliation came in late February of 2006, during an “amnesty day – when soldiers usually confess where they hid their cigarettes or dvd’s or cell phones during the last few months – but where my attacker told everyone what he had done and faced no repercussions. This series of events have haunted me in the years since.

I never reported it, partially because the perpetrator had confessed in front of the drill sergeants and nothing happened to him and because I thought I deserved it (“I guess I just gave off a gay vibe” or “it was just hazing” ) For years, I’ve tried to keep it a secret, even from myself – to deny that it had really happened or that it was has bad as it was, but all that denial just did was re-traumatize me day after day. I wish I could conclude my account with some pithy and brilliant summary, but I can’t. All I know is that I can’t stay silent anymore. It is my duty to speak.

8 comments

  1. Thank you so much for your course to speak out. If we all speak out these perpetrators can’t keep getting by with this…

  2. I am hoping one day soon I can tell my stories, it happened many many times to me, from the recruiter and on….
    But, I am glad for the brave ones for speaking up…. Thanks…..

  3. Thank you for speaking about what happened. As a man who was sexually assaulted I understand how difficult it is. You are not alone.

  4. Yes, I applaud you for coming forward with you recollection. Every single person that does, may inadvertently provide a common (and previously unknown link) between perpetrators. I also having experienced the horrors of Fort Lost In the Woods; had an especially hard time reading your posting. Know that you are not alone, as soldiers “we leave no one behind;” Our CoC may, but we as fellow soldiers do NOT! Every single soldier regardless of rank on that “amnesty day,” had a duty, an obligation, an oath to uphold by reporting what they heard/witnessed about your attackers’ bragging. EVERY LAST ONE of them, have no shame or guilt you are the only one who served with honor from that graduating class.

  5. I cannot express my feelings of sorrow that this happened to you. You have shown such courage here, whereas those soldiers (whether involved with this horrific assault or privy to it) were such cowards. I thank you for your service to our country and I am embarrassed by the sorry bunch that served with you. You are not alone. Thank you for stepping forward!

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