Air Force

TSgt raped at Sather Air Base Iraq

Mary Gallager,  United States Air Force

I was at Sather AB, Iraq in November 2009, this was my 3 tour to the region. I was having trouble with a co-worker and one night I went into to the bathroom as I came out of the stall he was standing there and threw me up against the wall and raped me and then told me “that is how you fuck a whore”. He left me there and when I finally left I went to my Commander who told that it is a “he said she said”. 12yrs of service went down the drain that night. From that point on the Air Force saw me damaged goods and they told me I had PTSD and medically discharged me just a year before I was a raising star doing what I love and now I spend my days at the VA, taking pills, and trying to find a reason to live!

Raped and Pregnant at MacDill Air Force Base.

M.T FLorida

I joined the Air Force at age 18, in 1981. I after basic and technical school I arrived at MacDill AFB. I was the first woman in my career field assigned to my shop and was not accepted at all.

My first roll call I was told that I would not be there long as I had no business invaded this man’s career field. I was told that I would be carried out in a body bag, commit suicide, go AWOL, or be put in a straight jacket before they were done with me.

Within a couple weeks I was attacked at the barracks (not raped) and suffered a head injury which my attacker did this in front of a group of people and never was charged. While in the hospital one of the supervisors started to befriend me. He built my trust up. At a party off base he followed me into a bathroom and raped me. I left and couldn’t speak. Then in the middle of the night woke up in my barracks room to find him on top of me. I tried to say something but was told nothing will happen.

I became pregnant and was told I was to have an abortion. The supervisor was high fiving the other supervisors when they found out because they can get rid of me. I don’t believe in abortion and refused. I was dropped off every week at an abortion clinic off base and had to take a cab back to the base.

I had tools thrown at my head. I was harrassed by everyone. Even the guys wife would call or they would let her in the shop to yell and threaten me. I was sent to Eglin AFB psyc unit. The doctor said I was normal and gave me a month to regroup and sent me back to the Hell awaiting me.

When I returned I was told to never where maternity clothes. They tried to hide my pregnancy. My commanding officer (A WOMAN) asked me if she could send me to Europe TDY to get an abortion since I was 7 months. The harrassing and threats continued. I had to move from the barracks to get some peace and got an apartment off base.

The wing commander asked me what was happening and I told him. He had me moved from the shop to another location. Nothing happened to anyone. I had the baby and was forced to give him up for adoption.

In 2007 we reunited and I found out the person who adopted him was a doctor at the base hospital and he and his wife were well aware of the situation and raised him to find me. The rapist is retired from the military and was never charged. I have lived in hell for the last 30+ years and just in the last few years can really speak about this. What is the military doing about the babies from MST, not all of us believe in abortion. They are victims too.

Jennifer Norris at Lackland Congressional Hearing

Jennifer Norris, a staff member for the Military Rape Crisis Center and advisory member for Protect Our Defenders,  testified today before the House Armed Service Committee regarding the abuse at Lackland Air Force Base.

Witnesses include: Gen. Mark A. Welsh III,  U.S. Air Force chief of staff; Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., commander of U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command; David Lisak, forensic consultant; Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Cindy McNally and TSgt Jennifer Norris.

Watch the testimony here.

Read My Duty to Speak testimonies from Air Force rape survivors here.

Read Jennifer Norris’ testimony here.

Rape at Cannon Air Force Base

Jewel, United States Air Force

In 1975 I joined the USAF. I was 19 years old and very shy and innocent. I believed that most people were good. And still think for the most part people are. My first duty station was Cannon AFB, NM. I worked in a Warehouse where 3 female airmen and about 75 male . I lived off base with my boyfriend he was in the Air Force too.

A friend of his was always harassing with sexual words. One night when my boyfriend was gone this man came looking for my boyfriend he came to the door and asked for him. I didn’t even answer the door, I told him he wasn’t in. He asked to come in I said no. He pushed the door down and pushed me into a spare bedroom by the front door. I remember thinking this wasn’t really happening. He held a gun to my head and said if I screamed he would shoot me. He ripped off my nightgown and raped me. When he got up I just laid in fear. I knew he was probably going to shoot me. But he left out of the room. I thought he was leaving; then suddenly he was back in the room. He had a knife from my kitchen and stabbed me 8 times. I had begged for my life. He left and I could tell that it didn’t look good.

I crawled on my hands and knees to the next door neighbors house. They called the police. Then I remember being taken to hospital. I had to have a blood transfusion. Back then there was no crisis rape counselor just mental health who I saw a man one time and decided I had to get through this alone. They sent me another base to get away from the incident. T

he man went to Leavenworth for 4 years, yes 4 years. I suppressed the whole incident for years. I had a eating disorder for years a form of control of something with my body. I went through 3 marriages , several thoughts of suicide and 1 attempt.. I am 57 years old and I still have nightmares, I am on total disability. I managed some how to stay in the Air Force for 20 years. I don’t think anyone has an idea unless it has happen to you. I pray one day that maybe I could have a normal life. I haven’t given up yet.

Military Women are strong, we learn to adapt to many things in a man’s military. We just didn’t know we’d have to endure rape to be strong.

Airman afraid to report rape.

Jennifer, United States Air Force

I did the same thing Mikayla Bragg did in an effort to appear fine when in reality I was falling apart inside.  I didn’t want my Chain of Command to know how and why I felt the way I did because I was judged, threatened, expected to “suck it up”, and my treatment and medications were used against me.  I, too, was scheduled to go to Iraq in 2008 and had weaned off my medications so that I could do so.  The VA was not willing to sign off on allowing me to deploy because they were afraid that I would have no support if something was to happen to me (they knew that I was trying to be strong but was ready to fall apart).  I tried to fight them but in the end could not continue to hide the information from the military because of Q21 on my security clearance.  Had I been supported from the get go (1999) and allowed to get the help I needed without worrying about how it would affect my career, I could have got healthy a lot sooner.  But, I was not supported at all.  I felt I had to hide the information from my Chain of Command because it was used against me.  I was judged as being “crazy”, “on happy pills”, “a national security risk,” and “weak”.  This type of treatment only compounded the PTSD.  I had no confidentiality if I did get help because everyone in the Chain of Command was informed. This also ties into why PTSD for MST survivors is so traumatic.  The assaults themselves are very traumatic, personal, and shameful.  We wouldn’t see nearly as many PTSD claims as we do if it wasn’t for the continued abuse, judgement, and mistreatment by those in our Chain of Command.  Instead, I would have still been serving my country while getting the help I needed to be the best soldier I could be.

‘Fell through the cracks’: Could Longview soldier’s death have been avoided?

Raped at Chanute AFB and raped by a foreign soldier.

DM, United States Air Force
I am currently NYANG AGR..(full time guard). The weekend of the end of April I went on a drinking and anti-depressants and Ambien binge. my life was flashing before my eyes and I needed it to end. I ended up as a non-voluntary admit on the Psych Unit of the Syrace NY VA Hospital. (they were wonderful)

I enlisted in the Air Force in 1977, I went to Chanute AFB for Avionics School. I was having some difficulty with the class, a SNCO in Training called me in to counsel me. After a get to know you conversation, he said it was a rough day, “how bout I get you some chow off base?” I gladly said yes. Fast forward..he offered a quid pro quo..he could get me assigned to another base immediately OJT, no Tech School. All I would need to do is provide him with oral sex. I was 18…from a single parent home, welfare, etc. I complied, after a couple of weeks I received orders for my base and new AFSC.

Move on to 1980, I was the first female on Diyarbakir AS Turkey. Had many problems there, and after much pleading with the Chaplain…got assigned to Incirlik AB Turkey. I worked mainly 3-11 shifts. This was during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and Turkey was under military rule. One evening on my way back to my dorm after my shift, I was jumped, pulled behind one of the huts and raped by a turkish soldier. I immediately walked to the base hospital and reported the rape. I was fairly well cared for at the hospital, they did what seemed like a rape kit, I spoke with Security Forces and they said they would take care of it. two months later, hearing nothing and having a really difficult time…

I spoke with the Doctor on duty, I was feeling really crappy. I was pregnant. I went to my First Sgt and broke down, he was extremely non-supportive. I should have known better than to walk alone, I culd have fought him off cause the Turks were small, was I sure that was what really happened? I demanded he speak with security forces to see where the investigation was going or I was going to file with the IG. About two weeks later I was offered a discharge due to pregnancy. I was so beaten, I felt so let down, that I accepted it.

Fast forward to 2008…I found my military stuff from back then including my health records. The pages from the rape exam were gone. I didn’t look at them when I was doing all my discharge paperwork. The past two years I have been battling depression and anxiety by myself. Self medicating with alcohol..finally spoke with my Primary Care Dr. and got sleeping pills and anti anxiety meds….four days of my life are gone, I have no recollection, but through counseling I cme to see what my problems have been, where my depression and behavior comes from. However, it has been so long, and added stressors at work…I am now just paralyzed. I’m still in the service but on admin duties, I don’t fit in, have no friends, just my husband..he has been fairly supportive but I have done many bizarre things over the years, that he is fairly numb too.

I will be 53 in a few weeks and I am just so exhausted. Thirty plus years, and I can’t recover. My substance abuse counselor thinks I have PTSD/MST..but there is no record of the assault..he put in into my records with the VA. But you know what? it really doesn’t matter. I don’t believe I will ever like myself, ever really trust anyone, ever feel whole….

Jennifer Norris speaks at the National Press Club

Jennifer Norris, Maine Director of the Military Rape Crisis Center speech at a recent press conference hosted by Protect Our Defenders. Jennifer was  in Washington DC with other sexual assault survivors of the military asking elected Congressional leaders to conduct a full investigation on how the DoD is addressing rape and sexual assault in the military.

Air Force sexual abuse trial gets underway

Last night on NBC Nightly News Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Air Force rape survivor and My Duty to Speak and Military Rape Crisis Center staff member Jennifer Norris discusses the rape and sexual abuse epidemic at Lackland Air Force Base. Watch the video here: http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/48202756#48178483

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

What I lost

Airman First Class, United States Air Force

I lost more I was with friends. People I trusted.

Being a normal 21 year old girl. I made a mistake.

Drank too much. Lost control.

But it was alright, I was with people I trusted….

I passed out; my night should have been done.

Wake up. I can’t move, something or someone is on top of me.

I can’t move.

Can’t speak something is in my mouth.

I can’t move.

Unwanted kisses go down my body.

I can’t move.

Open my eyes; everything goes in and out of focus.

I can’t move.

It’s you! I trusted, confided! Why!

I can’t move.

My legs are spread for me.

I can’t move.

My body betrays my mind.

I can’t move.

No I don’t want this, I never wanted this.

Please let him stop.

Someone wake up!

Someone stop him!

I can’t move.

Everything goes black……

I can’t move

You may have lost control for a moment, but I lost more.

You may have lost trust in people, but I lost more.

You may lose a career, but I still lost more.

I lost trust in people, in humanity.

I lost my dignity not only at your hands, but to a nurse, a camera and some cotton swabs.

I lost sleep, because I see not only you in my dreams, but nameless and faceless people.

I lost so much.

You didn’t care.

You didn’t care who you hurt.

You didn’t care how this would affect me.

I am the one who has to pick up the broken pieces and try and glue them back together

I can’t move.

I can’t move forward, don’t want to move backward.

I am stuck. Because of you there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about it, and how I lost more.

Why I Support the STOP Act (H.R. 3435)

Jennifer Norris, United States Air Force

The STOP Act, Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act, would establish an independent professional legal entity separate from the chain of command of the Department of Defense. Until very recently, sexual assault investigations were under the control of and conducted by the Commander. The Commander had the power to decide to pursue justice or not and to what level he elevated it. Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense, has recently declared that he is taking the power to investigate out of the hands of the Commanders and giving it to an O-6 or higher in the Chain of Command. My initial reaction is that there is an automatic conflict of interest with that and that the investigation can still be stifled if kept within the Chain of Command. The STOP Act would help to provide a form of checks and balances and put the case in the hands of a professional so that the investigation is handled appropriately. It is imperative that these cases be handled effectively in order to prevent further emotional and physical harm to the victims of such crimes.

In my efforts to educate the public via mostly social media, my fellow advocacy peers and I have come across rape apologists. My initial reaction is that these vocal dissenters of justice are the perpetrators themselves but after seeing so many various reactions to the topic, I am led to believe that there is a widespread misconception out there about the crime, the perpetrators, and the victims of sexual assault. For some reason, the white elephant in the room is that most claims of sexual assault are bogus reports. Today I was reminded by a fellow soldier (not the norm) that victims of rape claim rape to avoid charges of adultery. Who would know about that aside from the rapists and those unfortunate victims who happen to get caught up in this web of destruction? I never would have imagined this kind of response to a person who had the courage to report this crime. My day was somewhat planned until I woke up to this kind of mentality once again.

Instead of turning the other way and doing nothing, I decided to take this opportunity to educate others about the issue since there really is no arguing with idiots. At this point, it isn’t about what the rape apologists have to say; its about the truth. The truth is that most reports of sexual assault are not bogus reports. If there are any cases of bogus reports, they are definitely not the norm and don’t even compare to the number of sexual assaults. By the DoD’s own estimates there are roughly 3,192 sexual assaults reported a year in the military. These DoD estimates are staggering. Although Secretary Panetta estimates that the number is closer to 19,000 a year; most of them go unreported. And for those who have been victims of sexual assault or rape in the military, you understand clearly why one would be hesitant to report. It has devastating effects on your career, and in some cases reporting this crime is a career ender.

Although I pressed charges against two of the four perpetrators I crossed paths with within the first two years of my career, justice was still not served. I thought at the time that justice was served but after seeing how things played out and learning more about the issue, I see that my case clearly falls into the typical way that sexual assault investigations are handled in the military. The threshold for punishment is one of pity for the perpetrator because of how the report might affect their career, therefore they are not dealt the punishment that fits the crime. I must preface by stating that my Commander handled the situation pretty well. Unfortunately, this is not the norm. I have read countless stories about military rape victims who have sought justice only to be met with disbelief. In addition, they are treated like the enemy afterwards and their lives become a living hell. Not only are they forced to work with their rapist but they are forced psychologically to handle a situation that no one would wish on their worst enemy. Imagine the psychological trauma that results from getting raped by a fellow soldier and then having to work with or for that individual the next day.

In my case, one of the men who was sexually assaulting me was my NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge). He was my boss therefore he had the power to tell me what to do and when to do it. I was an E-4 and he was an E-7. He had the power to make me a “warehouse manager” in an effort to isolate me so that he could prey on me when we were alone. If he told me to work in the warehouse that day, then I worked in the warehouse. If he told me to do anything, I had to do it because otherwise it was, “disobeying a direct order” or “disrespect to an NCO”. I knew that if I did not comply with him that he could affect the outcome of my promotions, temporary duty assignments, work responsibilities, and general overall health. I was totally enslaved to this man because I didn’t want to risk the harm that came from reporting a sexual predator to the chain of command. Eventually, I didn’t have a choice but to report but it was not until after I was completely broken.

I went from “superior performer” to I don’t give a crap. I went from I want to retire with the military to I want out of here as soon as I can. I went from being happy and energetic to being totally sad and completely wiped out emotionally. I never imagined in a million years how negatively this would affect my psyche. I now understood why it is illegal and considered a crime to touch another person’s body, force yourself on another person, and/or make derogatory, sexual, belittling comments to another human being. I felt like my hard work and efforts meant nothing. I felt like I existed mainly for the purpose of the perpetrators pleasure. I felt like no matter how hard I worked or how much I learned that none of it mattered. It was like banging my head against a brick wall. Others noticed how hard I worked but the one person that controlled my career just happened to be a sexual predator.

For those who have been in the military, you understand how important the Chain of Command is. You also know that it is required that you report to your Chain of Command and attempt to resolve all issues at the lowest level possible. So what do you do when the person who is assaulting you is in your Chain of Command? I was approached by a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (E-7), outside my Chain of Command, who noticed that I had changed. He observed that I went from loving the military to not caring about anything. After being approached by this professional man who genuinely cared, it opened the flood gates. I finally broke down after months of attempting to handle the situation on my own with no success and told him what I had been dealing with on an almost daily basis. I was scared of my boss and no longer wanted to be subjected to his abuse and assaults.

My NCOIC purposefully set me up to be alone with him. And, his predator ways escalated over time. After assigning me to tasks that put me in isolated positions, he would then show up and make his move. For example, I was the warehouse manager, so he assigned me to clean up and organize the warehouse. I welcomed the challenge of the work but dreaded the isolated moments that he took advantage of. He grabbed me, pushed himself on me, groped me, and tried to force me to be physical and intimate with him. I would fight him off and fight back. I professionally, assertively, and angrily told him not to touch me on numerous occasions. He would not take no for an answer and he would get angry with me after I rejected his advances. I was told that I should feel privileged that he was interested in me, that I was a bitch, and that he didn’t want me anyway because I had small tits. So in addition to having my body violated, I was belittled and yelled at because I would not comply with his demands. This didn’t happen once or twice. This happened on numerous occasions, if not daily at times. He escalated over time and became more angry, sneaky, manipulative, and forceful.

Had this man not had control over my career, I would have ceased the behavior sooner. But because I was trying to safeguard my career while politely (and not so politely) trying to reject his advances, I was always scared that he would abuse his power. He had the power to write me up, talk bad about me to leadership, and hinder promotion, in addition to taking advantage of me. I felt like I was under his complete control and I worked every day trying to be perfect so that he could not use anything against me. Unfortunately, because he started to escalate and exhibit his behaviors in front of others, and no one said anything, it made me feel even more alone. I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I couldn’t turn to my Chain of Command because he was in my Chain of Command. I did not even think about reporting the sexual assaults to my Commander because the Chain of Command was so adamant about resolving issues at the lowest level possible. I also knew that if I reported this man for sexually assaulting me that my career would be over. And, in fact it was.

Everyone in my Chain of Command was informed after I reported the assault. It was protocol to keep my supervisor, the Chief, the Officer-in-Charge, and the perpetrator informed at all times. The Commander knew everything and it was his responsibility to keep the others in my Chain of Command informed with what was happening with one of their troops and the Superintendent of Maintenance. It was humiliating. And, instead of being supported through the process, I was judged, isolated, and basically run out. During the investigation, I was transferred out of the squadron. I agreed to the transfer because I could no longer handle being under the control of my NCOIC or in the same room with him. He had assaulted me on so many occasions that I was traumatized. I never knew when I was going to be put in a position where I had to fight him off. All I could think was why can’t I just come to work and work? Why do I have to deal with this? How do I make it stop?

The enacting of the STOP Act would provide me with a place to turn to, someone to advocate for me, and emotional help. Although my Commander did the best he could to investigate the situation professionally, it put all parties involved in a difficult position. Most crimes are investigated by professionals who went to school to learn the art of investigation, forensics, and crime scene analysis. Commanders have a full-time job with their existing responsibilities, let alone investigating a sexual assault claim. At the time, there was no help for me. It was so unbelievable to me that I would get assaulted by another in uniform, prove this, and not be offered any kind of mental health services. As a matter of fact, I had to pay for these services out of pocket. And because I was having such a hard time coping with the assaults, coping with the long, drawn out investigation process, and then coping with the retaliatory behavior by others in the Squadron, I was devastated. I had no choice but to turn to a professional for help. I had never been exposed to this kind of behavior and quite frankly didn’t even know what it was.

The STOP Act will hold perpetrators accountable, investigate the crimes, prosecute fairly, and provide checks and balances in the system. If this felony crime wasn’t so devastating, we would not have to create a special office to handle it but it is. It is not only devastating to the victim but to the Squadron or Unit as a whole. Morale was turned upside down after I reported the crime and the Commander launched an investigation. It was a small unit and the rumor mill started almost immediately. I was so ashamed of what had occurred that I was not interested in talking about the situation with anyone. Quite frankly, it was embarrassing and I wanted to put it behind me and move on. Unfortunately, others became fearful of me because they were not aware of what truly occurred. They were told that they had to be careful around me, that I was a troublemaker, and that I was a traitor. I never expected that response. I never expected that I would be betrayed in that way.

I would have preferred that the investigation be handled outside the Squadron. I would have preferred that the case be handled discreetly. I would have preferred that I was offered mental health services. I would have preferred that both of us leave the squadron to prevent one or the other from talking about the circumstances in order to gain support. Removing the investigation from the Chain of Command would have changed the entire dynamic of the situation. The STOP Act emphasizes an importance on human rights, discourages criminal activity, encourages professionalism in the investigation, ensures the best possible outcome for a conviction that holds up, and prevents others from becoming a victim of that perpetrator as well. Criminal investigations are handled by the professionals in the civilian world, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be handled by professionals in the military as well. The STOP Act would create a legal entity that specializes in the investigation and prosecution of these predators. The STOP Act would hold predators responsible and accountable for their criminal activity. Sexual assault and rape is not only a felony crime but it is a human rights issue. The STOP Act will protect our defenders too.

Jennifer Norris currently works with the Military Rape Crisis Center as its Maine Director.