My Duty to Speak

A Male Marine and Nearly Two Decades of Shame and Silence

Adapted from “I’ve Got the T-Shirt and the Trauma Response to Go With It”

As a vocal male survivor, when I’m not talking about sexual violence in writing or before audiences, I’m reading about it in many contexts and sources. A great deal of what I read on a daily basis is written with the implication that military men don’t experience sexual violence or have no experiences that parallel those of female survivors.

Those making such arguments are often NOT sexual violence survivors themselves. Encountering such memes can be quite painful when you are a rape survivor yourself. The problem is not that female survivors receive the majority of the attention when sexual violence is discussed. The problem is that when sexual violence is discussed with regard to male survivors, there is often resistance, condescension, and outright mockery by people who quite often have not experienced such violence themselves. For those who have lived through abuse at the hands of women, that can be doubly wounding.

I’ve lived through sexual violence. I have my own story and my own experiences. I have my own triggers and my own issues.  This is my story.

Background

Approximately twenty years ago I met a friend at a club in Jacksonville, North Carolina. He came with a female friend. During the night, he disappeared leaving his friend by herself and without a ride. As she was pregnant and without a ride, I agreed to take her home when I left. She had not been out in a while and wanted to stay until the club closed that night. While she was not drinking, she bought me a few thank you drinks for agreeing to drive her home.

After a few drinks, I became very tired and disoriented. I never drank until I got drunk, especially when driving and off base. I didn’t like the feeling and it wasn’t secure off base. I just figured I was tired and had too much without realizing it. There was a motel next to the club. She suggested we get a room and sleep it off, then I could drive her home in the morning. I agreed as I was rapidly losing the ability to think or see straight.  She got us a room with double beds and we split the cost.

I vaguely remember laying down with my clothes still on. I probably took off my shirt per the norm, but I left my pants on. I did not feel comfortable taking my pants off around this strange woman. She warned me that she did not want to have sex and I remember saying that I was seeing someone and was not at all interested in that either. I laid down on my side of the room and was out almost immediately.

At some point in the night, I awoke to find her on top of me. I said something I cannot remember and she coaxed me back to sleep. I doubt very much that she could even understand what I was saying, given how disoriented I felt at that time.

The next morning, after the sun had risen, I woke again feeling confused and unsure of where I was or what had transpired since getting off work on Friday afternoon. My pants were nowhere to be seen, my underwear also missing and my penis was erect. I realized that she was on top of me, grinding and moaning. I didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t fucking her. I didn’t want to fuck her. Who was she again? I moved as my legs were stiff and sore from being in the same position for hours with her on top of me.

She darted her eyes at me and told me not to move. I was ordered “don’t be forceful.” She then implied that I was trying to rape her when I could not remain perfectly still and again told me not to move. In addition, I was told that I could hurt the baby if I tried to stop it. After she finally finished, I was still expected to drive her home and was not dismissed until late that evening, after sunset.

In short, I was drugged, raped, threatened and had a baby used against me as a human shield. To say that experience left me messed up would be an understatement.

Put yourself in my shoes for a minute. I was under 21, drinking illegally in a club, while on active duty with a local, pregnant civilian. Why didn’t I report it? Read this paragraph again and think about it harder if it eludes your grasp.

The Reaction

How did I react? I buried it deep and pretended it didn’t happen, which is a common reaction for male survivors. That did not mean that it had no effect on me. I simply pretended it didn’t happen.  I called it a bad night and said she was a little twisted.  I tried my best not to ever think about it.

As one therapist would later tell me, denial of trauma does not mean it isn’t affecting you. I believe she said that if unacknowledged, the effects would “come out sideways” and in a manner that may not be easily identifiable.  For me, that was a sudden and ridiculous promiscuity that did not exist before the rape. I began to act out sexually by sleeping with any woman who offered. I turned down no one, to include several much older, married women. I did not seek out sex, I simply said yes every time.

To say that I was reckless then would be accurate. I was risking exposure to disease and potential violence from angry husbands and boyfriends. I did this for about three years before getting married and stuffing the memories down deep. Further, I lost nearly all trust in women – especially aggressive and loud women.

Nearly twenty years later, I decided to confront it. The time had come to do something about it. I sought out assistance and began to see a therapist. I spent a lot of time on me, thinking, analyzing and progressing. It was painful, but necessary work. I’m not done with it. I don’t know that I’ll ever be truly done.

While in therapy, it was as if the bandage had been ripped off suddenly and the wounds were newly raw. I had panic attacks, crying fits, sudden anger and loss of time. I felt exposed all the time, everywhere.

I had trouble being alone with a woman in a confined space like an office or elevator. Some days, I didn’t even want to stand next to a woman in line for a cup of coffee.  I felt guilty all the time. I still feel guilty quite often. I feel guilty because I don’t trust women I don’t know. I feel guilty because I sometimes view women, particularly loud and aggressive white women, as potential threats to my well-being and mental health. I feel guilty because for a long time, I couldn’t look at a pregnant woman without seeing that sick woman from so many years ago.  I still notice when a pregnant woman is near me, but that doesn’t always result in a panic attack.  Yeah, I know, it sounds ridiculous.  Since when did PTSD, rape or emotions ever make sense?

I still struggle with some of these issues today, but not as often and not always in such intensity as before.  Presently, I have returned to my prior human resources career. This field is dominated by women and has proved a big test for me.

The biggest test is sometimes just getting through the day without losing it. Some days pass without issue, while on other days I just have to give myself a hall pass so I can get on with my life.

 

James Landrith is a healing rape survivor, public speaker, internationally syndicated blogger, civil liberties activist and the notorious editor and publisher of The Multiracial Activist (ISSN: 1552-3446) and The Abolitionist Examiner (ISSN: 1552-2881). Landrith can be reached by email at:  james@jameslandrith.com or at his personal website/blog.

Coast Guardsman raped twice, still serving with rapist.

Anonymous, United States Coast Guard

A Coastie had poker night at his house. Only three Coasties attended. The other Coastie was the designated driver because he is a mormon and does not drink nor does he even play poker. Now that I think about it I am not even sure why he attended.  Knowing that I didn’t have to worry about driving myself home I drank and had a good time.

DD pulled into a parking lot of an office complex. It was evening on a Saturday and the parking lot was dark and empty.He told me to get out of the car. I asked him why and he said to just do it. I didn’t think much about it. He told me to sit down on the ground.  I thought it was weird but did it anyway. He raped me.

After he finished with me he told me to get back into his car. I was very numb and I did what he told me to. He drove me to his home. At his house he raped me again. He then told me to wash myself. He called me a dity slut and told me that I should be ashamed at myself for having sex in public. He said that all women are slut. He was very angry. He kept on swearing at me about how slutty and promiscuous that I was and how much I should hate myself for it.

As instructed I took a shower at his house. I was numbed and scared.

He told me to get back into his car. I don’t remember much after that.

Somehow I ended up at home. I woke up on my bed naked. I was still obviously very drunk. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I felt very ashamed.

Everybody loves the rapist. He’s the one that is always kissing everyone’s ass. Not to mention he is a of higher rank than me. I wasn’t going to report him.

I kept the rape to myself not telling a sole.  One night I was home and felt as if I was reliving the assault all over again. I went online and found out about RAINN. I did their online chat and they told me that they don’t have listed any support from the Coast Guard in my state. They told me instead to talk to the national guard and gave me a contact number. After talking to RAINN for a while I was able to feel more calm and it helped me.

I did not call the National Guard right away. I was very hesitant to talk to anyone. I liked RAINN because I was able to remain anonymous at the online chat but picking up the phone and talking to someone was very scary for me. Several weeks later I felt the same feeling like I was reliving the rape. I chatted with RAINN again and they told me the same thing as last time.

I looked at the National Guard website and was able to pull out the email address of the SARC that they gave me the number to. I set up an anonymous email account and emailed the SARC. She responded right away and said that she can certainly help me even though I am in the Coast Guard. She told me to call her. I waited a few weeks to call her but glad that I finally did!

First few phone calls I was hesitant to even give her my real name. She did not care. She said that she understood and was very nice to me. I was afraid that she would tell the Coast Guard what happened and that I’ll lose my career! I told her about how I feel like I am being raped all over again. She says that it is very common and it is called a flashback. We probably talked 6 times on the phone, still I was anonymous until I gained the courage to give her my real identity and meet with her in person.

I also emailed the Coast Guard SARC but never received a response. One day I got a sudden burst of bravery and called the Coast Guard SARC in my district but since I refused to give my name I was hung up on. Picking up the phone and saying: “Hello. My name is so and so and I do not know you but I want to report a rape” is freaking hard! Why can’t they understand that? Sometimes saying “Hello. I rather be anonymous for now. I was raped. What can you do for me?” is much easier. I do not know if this is a Coast Guard policy or just this specific SARC has a paranoia problem. Either way why was the National Guard able to talk to me when I did not feel comfortable sharing my name but not the Coast Guard?

The National Guard SARC said that everything that I tell her would be kept confidential and I have nothing to worry about with my command finding out. She was very nice. I opened up to her. She defintely wanted to help me. I told her about what I knew about how the Coast Guard treated rape survivors. I even told her about the Coast Guard SARC. She says that she only heard nightmares coming out of the Coast Guard and now she is seeing it first hand. She says she agrees that the Coast Guard is not doing their part to help rape survivors but since I came to her through RAINN that she would treat me the same way she treats those in the Guard.  What kind of reputation does the Coast Guard have?

She set me up with counseling. I did not like the counselor. It was nothing that the counselor did wrong except it was just not a good fit for me. The SARC right away got me an appointment with another counselor that I felt very comfortable talking to and who I still see today. I really like how she took into account my feelings. This SARC needs to win SARC of the year. She has  been great!

The SARC also recommended that I talk to the Military Rape Crisis Center because they are pretty much the experts when it comes to Coast Guard rape. I emailed Panayiota with my fake email address and she also reassured me that it is all confidential. After several weeks of her helping me without even knowing who I was I finally disclosed my real identity. I email her these super long rants that does not make much sense yet she always have the right thing to say.  She been a lifesaver!

Panayiota hooked me up with a yoga program specifically for those with PTSD that I am trying my best to continue going because I know it’ll be helpful. It is hard to go and be around other people. I became very isolated since the rape. I don’t even want to leave my home most days.

Earlier this week we received an email from the Vice-Commandant for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Rapist made a huge deal about it and said that it is horrible that women are being raped.  He printed out the poster and put one on everyone’s desk. It makes me want to barf.   I serve with a bunch of people that start every rape prevention discussion with: “Many women would lie about rape.”  I rather be raped a million and one more times than have any of them find out what happened to me. May can’t come soon enough if I have to hear rape this rape that every day in April from my rapist.

I am diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Every evening I drink until I black out. I can’t sleep any other way. I am afraid to even leave my house. I go to work. I come home and repeat it 5 days a week. On days off I stay home. I have been a cutter in high school and recently fell back into this habit. Thighs, feets, breasts, stomach anywhere that is covered by a uniform is now filled with cuts or scars. I vist this website because it keeps me sane knowing that I am not alone.

I do not know how much longer I can go through with this. Everyday is a struggle.  I can not do this any longer.  I give up.