military rape crisis center

Active Duty Coast Guardsman face retaliation for seeking treatment for rape.

Active Duty, United States Coast Guard

I was raped and chose unrestricted reporting. My Chief and others told me that they would stand by me and that my assailant is going to go to prison. They saw my injuries and knew of “the history” of my assailant that they promised that they would testify against him and want to see him sent to the brig.  I was interviewed by CGI and it came back that there might have been other victims.

I was sent inpatient for almost one month to help with me with the rape.

After the program I was sent to a different unit than my assailant.  I called my old Chief and those at my old unit that promised to stick by me and they told me that they were advised to no longer speak to me. I left a message for my victim advocate a couple of weeks ago and am still waiting to hear back from her.

The investigation came back as not enough evidence to move forward. Everyone found out and called me a liar for crying rape. I was told that because I was the one in the loony bin and not my rapist that something was obviously wrong with me.

My biggest mistake has been to agree to go inpatient. Before that I had witnesses that were willing to testify, CGIS that believed me, a command that was trying to help me. Because of my inpatient treatment I now have a scarlet letter on my forehead that reads warning. crazy woman who spent almost a month at a treatment program.

At the program I was told about MRCC by a few patients and MRCC were able to set me up counseling for as soon as I got out.  The doctor that the Coast Guard requires me to see told me that my diagnosis for PTSD is a mistake and is trying to determine what is wrong with me. The doctor feels that because my parents divorced when I was a child that I am having problems dealing with that and it might make me ineligible for military service. The doctor also thinks I might be having problems adjusting to the Coast Guard. The doctor that I am seeing that been referred to me by MRCC told me that I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of Military Sexual Trauma.

I want to stay in the Coast Guard but reading all the stories on here and knowing that I have problems because my parents are divorce leaves me very scared and depressed.

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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012, marks the fifth observation of Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Day

Wednesday, May 30, 2012, marks the fifth observation of Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Day

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/30/1095847/-Military-Sexual-Trauma-An-Epidemic

Military Sexual Trauma Memorial Garden

Panayiota Bertzikis, United States Coast Guard

This is a post that is so difficult to write. This is a post that I wish that I did not have to write. I wish instead that I were standing watch on a 210’. I wish instead that I were working on my qualification to make it as an MST1. Instead I am writing from Scottsdale, Arizona on the eve on the 6th months anniversary of my brutal rape while serving in the United States Coast Guard.

Tomorrow the Military Rape Crisis Center in conjunction with the National Organization of Women, Phoenix/Scottsdale chapter would be unveiling the Military Sexual Trauma Memorial Garden. This first of its kind memorial would be dedicated to all survivors and departed victims of Military Sexual Trauma. I wish that such a memorial was not needed. I wish that women and men could serve their country without being sexually assaulted or raped.  I wish that my shipmates, my comrades, my fellow veterans do not have to suffer the way that I am.

I wish that one-day survivors of rape and sexual assault can report a rape and be believed by their command. I hope that they never know the feeling of being handed your discharge papers because they dared came forward with reporting rape.

I wish that I could say that things get better. I wish that I could say that the pain lessens. I wish that I could say that the nightmares and flashbacks go away. They don’t. Since my rape at Coast Guard Station Burlington, VT six years ago tomorrow the pain of betrayal, the pain of being beaten and raped by a man that I was willing to take a bullet; my shipmate, the pain is still there as much as it was the first day.

The pain won’t go away and for that I have dedicated my life to try to eliminate sexual violence in the United States Coast Guard and within the Department of Defense.  I don’t want my shipmates, my comrades, and my brothers and sisters-in-arms to suffer through in ways that I did. As founder and Director of the Military Rape Crisis Center I wish that such an organization did not exist. I wish that rape in the military were not an issue. Since it is I vow to make sure that I at least give my shipmates the support that is needed after an assault.

Throughout the six-years I have met many strong and brave men and women that also served their country only to find that the biggest enemy was from their fellow soldiers/shipmates. They understand the pain of betrayal. They understand the fear associated with watching the military set free their rapist. Some of these men and women I now consider my best friends, closer than even family. I wish that I had never met these men and women. I wish that they were never raped. I wish tomorrow that a Memorial wouldn’t be dedicated in their honor. I wish that such a Memorial was not needed.

I wish that I can say things improved within the United States Coast Guard and DoD. I wish that I can say that the Coast Guard and DoD are striving to eliminate a culture that allows rapes and later punish the survivor for being raped. I wish that I could say that 6 years later that progress is being made. Progress is not being made. Little, if any, improvement has been made within the military that actually benefit survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.

However, sometimes wishes do come true. I wished for my cries to be heard. It did. For that I am eternally grateful to Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-D), Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-D) and for every journalist that dared to touch on the topic of Military Sexual Trauma for listening to survivors and for believing us and in us. For that thank you so much. We all thank you. Thank you for being our voice.

With me I carry a photo of a shipmate of mine. A woman that I first met at basic training and ran into her again after we were both transferred to Coast Guard Boston. This woman at basic training was so full of life and happiness at basic training. When I met her again in Boston pain and sadness took over her. Like me, she too reported a sex crime and was transferred to Coast Guard Boston. She did not make it. At the age of 24 she passed away as a direct result of the crime done to her while serving in the U.S Coast Guard. Her perpetrator was never prosecuted. For her and the many other departed victims and survivors of Military Sexual Trauma, tomorrow on Military Sexual Trauma Awareness Day a memorial would be dedicated in our honor.

The Memorial Garden is in Garfield Garden Park (northwest corner of Garfield and 6th Street in Phoenix). Ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m on May 30, 2012.

Introduction

It all started when a local newspaper published my rape story. I was called into James Freeman office to be told by James Freeman, Lt. Patricia Tutalo, Lt. Thomas Gwilliam and Commander Joseph Segalla to no longer speak to others about my rape. They were angry that I, an E-3 took it upon herself to inform the public that I was raped and that my command did absolutely NOTHING TO HELP ME. They were concern not about their lack of response to help a shipmate that was raped, they were concern not about the threats that I was receiving from my own shipmates but instead they were concern on how this would this look like for the Coast Guard reputation.  The next day I was handed a DD-214 and knew that I was given the liberty to speak.

The next few years I had the opportunity to share my story with members of the Congress, on national television and in several books including one that been taught in college history classes nationwide. I shared my story while on stage before 20,000 people and shared my story one-on-one with the new XO of the very unit that I reported my rape, in the very room. Each and every time I get to share my story I become stronger and know I am no longer that E-3 rape victim but a woman that survived something horrendous and lived to speak about it.

As I share my command’s response to my rape allegations, the civilian public jaws drop. How can a woman, in this day and age be treated so horrific and straight out backwards just cause she was raped? I have to remind them that what I went through while serving my country is nothing unique. It is happening to as many as one in three women in the military as well as many men. In the year 2011 right here in the United States of America rape survivors are still not being believed, being blamed for, losing their careers and at times murdered for reporting a sexual assault.

I know the pain of betrayal far exceed the physical pain of the assault itself. I know how it feels like to be treated like a criminal just for being a victim. I know how it feels like to lose your career while watching your perpetrator go unpunished. I know how it feels like to walk on base and hear “whore” or “liar” be thrown your way. I know that what I went through in 2006 has been going on for decades and it is still goes on today. I know that I do not want any more of my comrades, my vet-sisters, my shipmates to go through what I went through which is why I am sharing my story.

I am  inviting you all to do so as well. If you are a survivor, a family member, or a service member that witnessed abuse please share your story. Together, with the public knowledge of what is really happening in our military we can put an end to the truculent treatment of Military Sexual Trauma survivors.

To share your story visit: Be Heard

Panayiota

Coast Guard Station Burlington VT and Coast Guard Boston