after service

Army War veteran/MST veteran adjusting to going back to school.

Anonymous, United States Army

I am a 28 years old Army war veteran. I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from being raped while serving. I am a student attending a small yet prestigious liberal art college. There have been talk on here about military sexual assault survivors returning to college and I have added my two cents but feel that there is so much more to say.

I went back to classes today after a long weekend. I was able to complete most of my work and academic wise I am doing fine. Emotionally I am a mess when sitting in my classes. I sit in the back seat always, partly due to my PTSD and safety and partly because I feel that nobody should have to see me. I sit quietly with tears rolling down my eyes. For no reason other than I feel like an outside. I feel like I am ostracized. I simply do not have anything to say to the 19 years olds in my class who are living without a care in the world.

It is being ostracized that is the worst. It brings such emotion from my time in the Army that I feel like I am back every time I step inside a classroom. I know that my classmates are not doing it on purpose. I  know that I do not make myself the most approachable while wearing my BDU blouse and sitting in the back crying but the hurt is still all the same. I can put on a fake smile and pretend to care about the keg party that is going on that evening but quite frankly I could care less. I don’t want to change who I am to make friends. I want to make friends who understand what I have been through.

Most who attend my college are wealthy, suburban kids straight out of high school. They were just starting high school, some were still in Junior High when I was being raped in a war zone.  They do not have much real life experience. At times I just want to scream that there is more to life than the mall.  I want to scream to them that there is more to life than parties. I want to scream to them that I WAS RAPED. I WAS TOLD THAT I AM A LIAR. I LOST MY CAREER. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW THAT MAKES ME FEEL? Instead I keep quiet and sit in the back alone.

We do not have a veterans organization or support on campus. Veterans Day came and went with more thought on being another free day off than the meaning behind the day. Like last year I requested a ceremony to honor our military on Veterans Day and they felt that it was not appropriate. They instead display books on Veterans in the library as we are some sort of case study and said that they are doing more than enough to observe Veterans day. Last year during a showing of the film Lioness I requested to be part of the panel to  answer questions about the film. I was denied because I did not have enough experience. I did not have the credentials or the degree to speak about women at war. According to my college a PhD who read books on combat has more credentials than a war veteran to speak about war.

My college  wants to put me on a medical leaves of absence while I deal with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The idea of not being able to go back to college in the spring scares me. The idea of not having anything to do next semester scares me. I was actually looking forward to the spring semester and felt that it’ll be a change from the norm. I signed up for 2 on-line course, an internship, leaving only 2 classes to be taken on campus one is the internship class which only meets a few times a semester so pretty much just one three credit class which I think was manageable. The Dean of Students contacted my Professors and a couple wrote back saying that I make them feel uncomfortable, that I make them feel unsafe. I sit in the back of the classroom, alone and do my work. I am sorry that I make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I am sorry if being a quiet, depressed veteran scares you. I fought to protect your freedom and I’ll never hurt you.

I feel the same emotions that I felt when I received my discharged papers. I am no longer wanted. I am broken. Something is wrong with me. As I watch my classmates without a worry in the world caring more about the keg party than the final papers I feel envious. I know that they have a greater chance of graduating college than I do. I know that they have a greater chance of being happy than I do. I know that they have a greater chance of living out their goals than I do. Yes I am envious of them.

 

MST Veteran feels left out

Mary V. United States Army

In 2007 I was raped 6 months into my services with the Army. I reported the rape and my rapist were never prosecuted. Instead, I was viewed as being mentally unstable and as a result lost my career in 2008. In 2009 I enrolled in school to take advantage of the GI Bill and had a difficult time.

I attend a large state school. We have tens of thousands of students and we have a very active veterans organization. The first group on campus that I joined was the Veterans organization. I was treated with a cold shoulder yet still wanting to be accepted I will continue attending their meetings and events.

On Veterans’ Day we had a dinner event on campus. We were given stickers to wear for which conflict we were apart of. If you were never deployed you do not get a sticker. Each table was dedicated to each conflict. If you served in Iraq or Afghanistan you get the two best tables in the house up front. If you served in Vietnam you get the table right behind them. If you were never deployed you get to sit in the back behind the pole behind the professors, staff and others who may not be veterans.

I served a total of 11 months. When the Student Director of the Veterans’ Organization asked me how long I served he said “well you not really a veteran”. An assistant director said that I was “lucky to never have deployed” I wanted to tell them that I wanted to serve longer, that I enlisted with the desire to make it a career then I was raped and forced out but I could not tell them that. I rather have been deployed because I would be viewed as a hero and not a traitor for reporting rape.

It is hurtful when male student veterans won’t acknowledge what us women veterans may have gone through. Through my classes I met other women veteran who are not part of the veterans organization for reasons that they also feel left out.

During sexual assault awareness month I spoke to the veterans’ organization to have an event for military sexual trauma. They denied it and said that it was not “relevant to their mission” so I went to the counseling center and women center who was organizing various events on campus for sexual assault awareness month and asked if I can plan an event for military sexual trauma and they responded by saying that they “can not single out one group of people” and my request to do something MST-related was once again denied.

In the veterans community MST survivors are often shun out and not welcomed. In the feminist community veterans are often shun out and not welcomed. Even among women veterans community MST veterans are often shun out and not welcomed. I posted on a women veterans’ organization facebook wall and they deleted it because according to the admin they did not want women veterans to only be known as having MST but also to be known for all their accomplishments. Surviving MST is an accomplishment in itself. Read the stories on here. We all deserve medals.

Emotionally sitting in class is difficult. I always sit in the corner and that is my safe spot. If I don’t come to class early enough and someone takes my seat I break down in tears because I am overwhelmed in panic.  I cannot have male professors and can only deal with women professors.  It is so difficult. I tried to go to counseling on campus and the counselor did not understand the military structure but did try to convince me that she did because she read an article about military sexual trauma.

It is so difficult being an MST survivor.