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The bystanders

A few years ago I was serving on a cutter in the Coast Guard (I’m at a different unit now). We were at a week-long port call and were moored up at a pier. I was on the mess deck eating lunch with a female coworker on a Monday and she told me a story.

She said that she was out at a bar with a bunch of other people from the ship and they all got pretty drunk. After coming back to the ship one of the guys pushed her up against a wall and sexually assaulted her. She couldn’t push him away and had to wait for someone else to walk by and pull him off of her. Another guy walked by and saw it happening, but didn’t do anything because the two of them were friends.

Now, we’re friends. I think of her as like a little sister. I was not happy when I heard this. I knew that I wasn’t thinking clearly because I was so angry, so I didn’t do anything and waited until later to talk to someone else. I got her to tell the story to another female that we work with and I said that my feeling is that we should tell our supervisor and get these two guys in trouble.

The female that it happened to said that she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, and to just let it go. The other female said that we should just do whatever the other wants to do with it. Their main thought was that we’re in a job that no one on the ship likes, and the other two were thought of as everyone’s friends.

They were afraid that she would get in trouble and everyone would take the guys’ side. As much as I hated to let it go….they were probably right. We never did anything about it. It still haunts me to this day. I hate seeing bad people go unpunished.

Recently separated Coast Guard veteran demanding changes in how the Coast Guard handles rape cases.

I was separated from the Coast Guard because I reported a rape.

I am not ready to share my story.  I do want to share these four concerns that I feel should be addressed by the Congress.

1. I was forced to pay out of pocket to attend my own Article 32 hearing. I was eventually reimbursed but I was given a hard time when I requested to be reimbursed and had to tell 3 people why I was traveling.  One questioned me on why the Coast Guard should pay for a personal matter.  Apparently you have to be rich to bring forward any charges against a rapist in the Coast Guard. Unless you are sitting on a pile of cash forget about having your parents or anyone there to support you.

2.  The retaliation was worst than the rape.  Almost everyone from an E-2 to an O-7 called me a liar.

3. After reporting my rape I was the one transferred not my rapist. You’ll think that the Coast Guard would have some common sense and not transfer a rape victim away from her friends and a unit she is familiar with. In addition to being the odd new girl that left early for counseling I felt even more isolated because I was at a new unit and in a new city.

4. The Coast Guard does not allow non-Coast Guard victim advocates to serve as victim advocates. I requested Panayiota as my victim advocate and the Coast Guard denied it. Instead they gave me 3 different victim advocates within a year. By the time I felt comfortable with one they gave me a new one.  The irony of it all is that at times they did not know the answers to my questions and they’ll ask me to ask Panayiota and then requested to know what Panayiota has said so that they can know for future victims. Even though Panayiota was not allowed on base with me and at the hearing she was the only one that was stable in my life and the first person I emailed or called after getting any updates about my case.  All of the victim advocates were very nice people but I felt that they were not trained enough. Every other branch of the military allows non-military members to assist rape victims why doesn’t the Coast Guard?

Rape Culture at the Coast Guard Academy

When Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz was questioned about the increase of sexual violence at the Coast Guard Academy she released the following statement:

“At a time when they’re exploring their identity, it’s somewhat natural to have people experiment with what it takes to attract a person of the opposite sex. If, one time, a guy or gal is clumsy or stupid and tries to touch someone and they’re repulsed, they learn. Someone who goes around and keeps trying many times, that’s a different kind of behavior than someone who is awkward and experimenting.”

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Sexual assault is not being “clumsy” or “stupid” but a violent crime –a felony with lifelong consequences for the survivor. Sexual Assault is sexual assault regardless if it happened once or if it happened repetitively over a period of time. The Coast Guard Academy should not tolerate Sexual Assault and the superintendent should stop making excuses for sex predators.

read more here.

-PB

 

Message from Panayiota Bertzikis

Greetings,

You are about to read true first person testimonies of sex abuse in the United States military. A lot of the survivors do go into details about their sexual assault, rape and the military response to the rape.  Reading these testimonies could potentially be triggering to survivors of Military Sexual Trauma or rape. Please take that into account before continue reading.

My Duty to Speak started as a writing workshop in Cambridge, MA for Military Sexual Trauma survivors that was hosted by the Military Rape Crisis Center in November 2010. The day workshop was taught by some of the greatest trauma and writing specialist in the country. By writing about what we went through while wearing the uniform we broke the silence of abuse liberating ourselves while also might be helping someone else who is feeling the same way.

We are thankful for so many survivors who came forward to share their Military Sexual Trauma testimonies with us. As you can read from the testimonies the military response to rape is often as disturbing and horrifying as the act of rape itself. Want to do something to help survivors? Take Action and call your representatives and demand better treatment for sexual assault survivors in the military. Head over to change.org and sign our brand new Petition to demand better treatment to survivors of rape in the Coast Guard. If you are interested in sharing your testimony go to Be Heard.

My staff and I are always available to you email me at panayiota@stopmilitaryrape.org . Together we are making a difference and improving the military response to sex abuse within it ranks. However, there is a lot more that needs to be done and we can not do this without you,  your support and your voice!

With gratitude,
Panayiota Bertzikis
Managing Editor
MyDutytoSpeak.com

We do not take liability for anything posted on here.

Military Rape Crisis Center Press US Coast Guard to improve Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

By Panayiota Bertzikis

One in three women as well as many men in the Coast Guard are going to fall victim of sexual assault and rape. While a lot of focus has been on the Department of Defense to make changes, the United States Coast Guard-which falls under the Department of Homeland Security has been exempt from having to implement the same DoD policies that would help sexual assault survivors.

Two weeks ago Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) wrote to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to express their concern that the Coast Guard has not yet adopted an expedited transfer policy for victims of sexual violence as have the military departments under the authority of the Department of Defense. To this day the Coast Guard refuses to adopt to the STRONG Act even though it might save the life of a Coast Guard rape survivor.

The United States Coast Guard has refused the Military Rape Crisis Center’s numerous pleas to have trained victim advocates at every single Coast Guard installation. For instance if a woman or man is raped at a small boat station in Maine they have to contact the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) in Boston, Massachusett-two states away. If that is not daunting enough many survivors and  civilian service providers report that phone calls and emails to the SARC in Boston are often not returned leaving the survivors alone, scared and vulnerable for repeat attacks.

Coast Guardsmen in Maine are not the only ones that lack the support that they need to make a confidential immediate report and receive the help that they deserve. Many Coast Guard stations throughout the United States do not have trained victim advocates to offer immediate help for survivors of sexual assault and rape.

As a Coast Guard rape survivor and a full time victim advocate working with the Military Rape Crisis Center I know first hand the severity of this epidemic. Due to the lax policies on sexual assault in the US Coast Guard what we are seeing at the Center is an increase of Active Duty Coast Guardsmen and women seeking services from us. The rapes are becoming much more violent and the retaliation for reporting an assault is becoming much more vicious.

A group of Active Duty Coast Guardsmen, veterans and the general public got together to help bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse in the Coast Guard. Together we formedwww.SupportTheCG.com as a way to bring awareness and to help end this epidemic that has hurt so many of our shipmates. Please sign the petition so our shipmates can one day serve their country without fear of being sexually assaulted and/or raped.

source

Active Duty Coast Guardsman: “Women are not treated equally in the Coast Guard.”

Non-rate, United States Coast Guard

I knew of the rape problems that the military has but my recruiter ensured me that it was all DoD problems and that the Coast Guard is the “most women-friendly” branch of service. My recruiter said that unlike the DoD all of the jobs in the Coast Guard are open to women which proves that the Coast Guard treats women fairly. He said that there might be stories out there but things has changed. It sounded convincing enough so I signed along the dotted lines. It did not take me long to find out that my recruiter was wrong.

At basic training my company commander brushed himself against my breasts.  After it happened many more times you must rule out that it was accidental. I spoke to the females in my company about it. Others experienced the same thing and felt it was creepy. Together we all went to our lead company commander to report it. Our lead company commander said that he’ll talk to the CC that did this to us. It stopped.

My unit is porno central. Every where you looked was porn. Every computer’s screensaver and desktop photo showed porn. I reported it. I was told that if I wanted butterflies and unicorns that I should have been a preschool teacher. I was told that this is the Coast Guard. Porn is harmless and needed to help the men. I worked in a professional setting prior to enlisting in the Coast Guard. Why are civilian men capable of doing their work without viewing porn but Coast Guardsmen are not?

Being raised in a Christian home I find pornography very offensive. I was able to track down the Coast Guard’s porn policy and showed it to my Chief. Porn in the workplace is against Coast Guard policy. Chief denied the policy and ignored my findings by saying that it is “just kiddie porn” that is not allowed.

Shortly after things went downhill. I was viewed as a trouble maker. You become the tattletale; the snitch. Not one person wants to include you in anything out of fear that I’ll be running to the Chief to report them.  I was also told that I am jealous of the women on the computer because I am not as pretty as they are. Instead of tackling the real issue I became the problem.

My sexual assault happened on December 22, 2012.  I was awaken by a Petty Officer first class with his hand down my pants. I screamed. He ran out. When I was asked about my scream I lied and said that I was having a bad dream.

Things have been getting considerably worst. When I see the PO1 he always tells: “bitch. make me a sandwich” jokes.  The men openly describe incidents that are by definition rape. The women laugh at their jokes. If you are familiar with Michael Nodianos and the Steubenville video you have some sort of idea of what Coast Guardsmen laugh about and what I have to listen to each and everyday.

We have at least two women here that are here because they have been raped. They are at different units but it is common knowledge that they been raped. Several often make fun of them. Even the women laugh at other women for reporting rape. The Chief and others often hear the jokes but not once put an end to them.

The other women here all laugh at rape jokes and partake in pornography. The most shocking of it all was when we were all at a bar two of the women were ordered to make out with each other. They did. They also flashed their breasts in the cab. A PO3 said “That is exactly why I love having women in the Coast Guard.” The women laughed. Both of these women are in heterosexual relationships. They only made out with each other because it turned the guys on.

We were ordered to move some furniture around. Two of the women sat there and said that it was too heavy for them. The men moved the furniture it for them. I am half their size and did the work for myself without any help. If you ask any of the women they would tell you that they are not treated any differently because they are women. It is sad that these women feel that showing their breasts or showing that they are weak, delicate creatures is the only way to get ahead in the US Coast Guard. Sadly, they are right. Their careers are flourishing. My career was threatened.

This leaves me to the last bit. I am always reminded that I might be kicked out for failure to adopt to military life. I have completed all of my qualifications. I have not had any disciplinary problems. Because I have a problem that others view porn and because I do not laugh at rape “jokes” I am the one that is allegedly not able to stay in the Coast Guard. As of now the threats of kicking me out within the 6-months mark has been action-less threats. It scares me though that I might be out of a career because others are breaking Coast Guard policies.

Women are not treated equally in the Coast Guard.

Wall of Shame: Captain Pete Decola, United States Coast Guard

Update 23FEB13

We want to thank everyone that took their time to contact us about this case.

We were contacted by many on Active Duty Coast Guardsmen or women that witnessed Captain Decola verbally and emotionally abuse rape survivors. Even though what Decola did was clearly barbaric the amount of support and love from Active Duty Coast Guardsmen and women that contacted us was monumental. We thank everyone that took the time to contact us or post a comment on this blog. We know how difficult that it is to come forward while still on Active Duty and we admire your bravery.

Together we can help eliminate abuse by Pete Decola-and others like him who are abusing our shipmates who already suffered through the unthinkable. Join me to SupportTheCG.com so my shipmates won’t have to suffer the way that I did under Pete Decola’s command.

Thank you. Semper Paratus

-PB

While most people serving in the U.S Armed Forces are doing so honorably without assaulting anyone–or covering up and/or blaming a survivor that comes forward there are the handful of individuals that hurt our service members and often do so to multiple victims. Our Wall of Shame highlights those that spent most of their careers abusing our US Service members and veterans.

Today we are adding Captain Pete Decola to the Wall of Shame.

Pete Decola is a United States Coast Guard Captain. He is currently serving at Coast Guard Boston.

-In 2006 a woman was beaten, raped and severely retaliated against. As retaliation for reporting the rape she was sexually assaulted by friends of the rapist. According to a Coast Guardsman that witnessed -and put an end to the sexual assault before it escalated- he tried to get the woman helped, including speaking to Mr. Pete Decola but Decola REFUSED to help the woman. The witness to the sexual assault posted his story here.

-In 2007, Pete DeCola was instrumental in kicking out a rape survivor from the Coast Guard for reasons of she reported a rape. According to emails and documentations obtained by My Duty To Speak, Pete Decola refused to help a shipmate that was raped.

-A civilian anti-rape advocate/peer rape counselor was verbally assaulted by Pete Decola. She wrote about her ordeal for CNN. Read it here.

-Many Active Duty Coast Guardsmen came forward to say that they have witnessed Peter Decola verbally abuse women in the Coast Guard that reported rape. Many witnesses report that Pete DeCola has used words such as “crazy”, “liar” and “nut job” to describe our US Coast Guardsmen and disabled veterans that been raped or sexually assaulted.

The most notorious of all was last summer when Captain Pete Decola announced to a room full of Coast Guardsmen and women that women that report rape are “crazy” and “liars” he then went on to talk about CONFIDENTIAL information about rape cases that he was aware of. In the audience was two known rape survivors. Both rape survivors contacted us upset, triggered and disgusted by Captain Pete DeCola’s behavior.

As a result of Pete Decola’s rant against rape survivors one of the survivor left the Coast Guard as soon as her contract was up.

How many other rape survivors were in the room? Even though one might never know how many rape survivors have been hurt by Pete Decola the statistics of rape in the military are well know.

The United States Congress estimates that as many as 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men would experience sexual violence while serving in the United States Coast Guard. Divide that by the number of people that heard his “women that report rape are crazy” rants and you would get an estimate of how many suffered because of Captain Decola’s pro-rape attitude.

The US Congress also estimates that less than 10% of all rapes are ever reported due to harsh retaliation against the victim (such as losing their careers, being called “crazy” and “liars”, etc…) The United States Congress also estimates that less than 90% of all reported rapes end up in trial–with most accused rapist leave the Coast Guard with an HONORABLE discharge.

The abuse against the men and women in the Coast Guard needs to stop. Being raped in traumatizing enough. We do not need Captain Pete Decola to inflict secondary trauma to the brave men and women that volunteered to serve their country.

We are hoping that Captain Pete Decola stops abusing men and women in the Coast Guard that report rape. Our Coast Guardsmen and women deserve better.

If you have been abused by Captain Pete Decola or have witnessed Pete Decola or anyone else blame, not believe or abuse a Coast Guard rape survivor please contact us at panayiota@stopmilitaryrape.org.

-written by M.

Senior Chief ordered to cease talking to a shipmate that reported rape.

I am a Senior Chief with the US Coast Guard. I am writing this because I need help. I mentored hundreds of people throughout my career. A SN that I mentored early on in his career made it to Chief and I helped him through every step of the way. Throughout all of these years I kept in contact with almost everyone that I ever served with.  A woman that reported a rape was no exception.

After her command discovered e-mails between the rape victim and me I was forced to cease all communications with her. All the emails were professional and sent through Coast Guard email. Emails to her were similar to what I have sent to my other mentees.  I advised her about staying focus and shared my experience and insight with her. Often I send out the same motivational email to all who consider me a mentor. She not once mentioned her rape or anything that might hinder the investigation.

I read every single Coast Guard story on here and it saddens me.  The posting about a woman that was invited to the base and later was turned away, humiliated and harassed because she was a rape victim angers me.  In another posting a woman wrote that her two brothers in the Coast Guard felt that rape victims are skanky that do not deserve even an investigation? There are the many victims that posted that they did not receive an investigation even if they wanted to go with an unrestricted reporting which is clearly against violation but who is holding anybody accountable?

The Coast Guard was very good to my family and me.  I am always the first to defend every negative press about the Coast Guard from our response to the oil spill to the embarrassment of Deepwater. At this point I am lost. I am angry with the Coast Guard for putting me in a situation to choose between an organization that I love and a shipmate that was raped.   I no longer want to work for an organization that tells me that I cannot speak to someone because they have been raped but I also know that my family and livelihood depends on this job.

Advice?