domestic violence

Solider recalls surviving multiple assaults, harassment and domestic violence.

Anonymous, United States Army

I wanted to join the military since I was about 12, although no one in my family had ever joined. I had been enamored with it after seeing the Navy women in my hometime in their beautiful uniforms. The Army got me, instead, after being convinced by the Army recruiter. That should have been my first clue…the recruiter!! On a trip with him for some documents, he attemtped to coerce me to have sex. I said no, I screamed no, but was so very scared because I didn’t even know where I was…some other town he’d taken me to. The powers that be were looking out for me that day since when I began to get out of his car, to walk, who should be driving down the road but a police cruiser.

He begged me to get back in the car, that he would take me straight home…I complied and he did take me home. I never saw him again…a few days later when I went to report it, I don’t know what the truth was, but I was informed that he’d retired? When I’d shared with my mom what had happened, she said she’d warned me she didn’t think it was a good idea to join the service. After that incident, I didn’t want to go on active duty anymore, not fully understanding what I was getting myself into, but the new recruiter lied to me, saying I could not get out of the delayed enlistment program. So, I shipped out.

We were some of the first women recruits that trained with the men. It was an experience not expected by me, or many of the other women, but training had nothing to do with it. I was used to a lot of guys around me, having nothing but brothers, male cousins, and male uncles around while growing up. Additionally, I considered myself as a tomboy, so I had no trouble with guys. Yet, basic was like nothing I’d been exposed to. So many men, so many troubled men, at least in our company. For the most part, most of the women were sexually harassed (we didn’t know it was called that then), including from the training personnel. I made it through basic, moving on to AIT, but know what? The harassment continued. Sheesh, you’d think we had some statement written on our foreheads…leer at me, touch me, grope me, stalk me…NOT!! I was so ready to be done with the whole training time, but little did I know that even in permanent party, the end was not to be.

While living in the barracks, asleep on my cot, whence my roommate left our door unlocked, an unknown to me soldier attempted to rape me as he gained access to the women’s side of the barracks. I woke up at that time, fighting him off, chasing him out of my room, down the exit stairway, never knowing who he was, surmising he must have been on guard duty and knew about that door many times left with a wedge by some of the women, so as to make it easier for them to gain access to the barracks without having to go all the way around the building. Bad idea, even worse place for me, never felt safe in the barracks after that.

Eventually, I moved out of the barracks, marrying a fellow soldier who had been a charmer while we were dating. Who would have known? Not me…not even a clue!! Some say one doesn’t really get to know a person, until one lives with them. I dare say that can be so true, certainly was true for me!! I had no idea, so unexpected. The first weekend after we married, I learned who he was, really. It took a knock down, being shocked by it, to realize that I was in trouble. He was devious, very much so, waiting until the weekend, so he could terrorrize me the entire weekend, which left me without seeming able to figure things out. Something happened to me that weekend…no longer that brave young woman…I had lost something…seemed to have become immobilized by fear!!

Nobody knew what was happening to me, on a routine basis, whenever he was around. He always made sure the bruises were not visible, bruises always hidden by the uniform, or other clothing. I honestly did not know how to make it stop, nor what to do about it, still keeping it to myself. I became a shadow of who I’d been, but kept a low profile at work, stayed away from people I knew, so nobody would notice, and nobody ever did. Eventually, I told my mom, my dad, and my best friend back home, but nobody in the command, or near, knew how I was being terrorrized.

Eventually, I felt so beaten down, became very depressed, always in an anxious state, just waiting for the next hit, the next threat, the next sexual assault by him. It took the final of three days when he pulled a rifle on me, threatening to kill me, after he’d humiliated me sexually, threatening to dismember me to get away with it, that I took myself to the medical dispensary in such a state of despair, depression, and anxiety, besides a headache that I now had after getting knocked upside the head by him, yet again. I was still too scared, shamed, or I can’t even explain it, but I did not tell what had been happening to me, just that I was depressed and in a nervous state. Guess what they did for me? Nothing!! The woman medic that saw me did not even explore anything, nor sent me for an evaluation with the PA, just gave me meds for the headache, even as she wrote the symptoms in my medical records. Hindsight is 20/20 as is said, but at that time, I still did not tell. I requested a transfer out of the country, just to get as far away from my soldier husband as I could get, but it was denied because we were short on personnel. So, I trudged on, continuing in the daily routine of abuses, until my discharge from the service and my divorce from him.

I had to leave the state to get away from him. I made a new beginning for myself, eventually remarrying a good man, but the memories from that awful time in my life never left me, neither did the fears, or my reactions. I have been in mh treatment for more years than I’ve been alive. Yet, I still wake up in a sweat, being chased, when I awaken from the throes of those nightmares. I have not found healing yet. I managed to carve out a good life for myself, and my family,even as my children grew up with a mother whose pain they did not understand because I put myself somewhere else in my mind, so that I could take care of them. My boys are all grown men now,finally know my story, and I still have a very good life, but the memories still haunt me…