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
Coast Guard Station Burlington VT and Coast Guard Boston