Jen STG2 United States Navy
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.”
I grew up in a seemingly normal barely middle class home. What I mean by barely middle class was that I was born to two unemployed college students who moved from their provincial southern California hometown to the emerging economic boomtown that would become Silicon Valley.
My mother was an interesting but chronically depressed woman. My father was a seemingly jovial but bipolar alcoholic former Marine .He would say, “Once a Marine always a Marine. My father glorified his days as a Marine serving in Vietnam. He felt that his Purple Heart gave him a license to do pretty much anything that he wanted. Anything that he wanted includes beat and molest his children and psychologically terrorize his wife, my mother. They both put on a good game face and everything looked great.
In John Bradshaw’s terms, I was the “Acting out child.” The acting out child is relevant to the military rape that will come several years later. I knew that things in the house were wrong and I called attention to that fact. By the time that I was twelve years old, I was popping all sorts of over the counter allergy and sleeping pills to stay disengaged. I found solace in poetry and drama. I even watched pathetic soap operas as an escape.
By the time that I was in high school, we had moved to Duchess County New York because the IBM there looked as if it were going to be a new Silicon Valley. My father went to IBM East Fishkill ahead of us and I was hoping at this time that my mother would file for divorce and refuse to join him in New York. She didn’t. We moved to New York in May of 1983. I was about to turn thirteen.
Things looked normal for a while. My parents rented a house with five bedrooms in Rural Pleasant Valley New York. Things seemed like they were going to be great. I thought things had changed.
My parents eventually bought a raised ranch in the town of Pleasant Valley. My father’s drinking reemerged and the abuse came back. He had always physically and sexually abused my sister and me. One night he came to basement where we had bunk beds. He began to assault me, “As punishment.”
I was on the bottom. He had me pinned with one foot free. I called out to my sister. She whined, “Go to bed Dad.” She must have forgotten to say please. I pleaded for her help while she lay on the top bunk wishing that this was not happening. Perhaps she was in shock. She could wish all she wanted. I did not have that luxury.
The bunk beds were not very stable. I kicked the top bunk over and over until the top rack dropped on my father and me. My sister pulled him off of me and went and got my mother who came downstairs and took my father to bed. Betrayal began in the home.
Eventually, I told my father that I was going to turn him in for that night. He looked at me with his mean Marine stare and said, “I’ll beat the charges.” I did not turn him in for at least a year.
About a year later, I took off with a friend. We planned to report the crime. When the police picked us up I reported the assault. The police sent me home to my abuser and we were ordered by social services to attend eight visits of family counseling. This solved nothing!
I grew up and became a small time stand-up comic. Being wasted was a big part of my stick. Many funny people are damaged. Humor saved me. I was terrified to go out on the road as a stand-up. I knew the likelihood revisiting dangerous places. I put my career on hold and took a job at IBM in Burlington, Vermont, where my father was a legend.
I left that job to join the Navy in my mid twenties. I thought that I could serve my country, sober up, toughen up, and get back on the road as a stand-up when I got out. I really felt at home in the Navy.
I became the walking recruiting advertisement. I went to school on the side and I volunteered everywhere. I was grateful to be in the Navy. I loved being alive.
Things began to crash at FleetASWSan Diego. There were three men in C-School who were white power advocates. I have mixed faith and I feel closer to the Tanakh than the New Testament. I wore a Star of David back then. At a PT muster, one of these bullies saw the Star of David and yelled “Hey you dirty Jew” at me in front of sixty people who remained silent. Silent. Like my sister on top of that bunk back home. The difference, they were not barely thirteen years old and should be held to a higher standard.
I turned the haters in. The higher ranking among them – already on a suspended bust – was relieved of his supervisory role.
Thus began my decline. The recently demoted told most of the men on ASW that whoever went to sea with me should ruin me. In 1998, I reported to a DDG in Norfolk, VA.
Someone that I knew at Fleet ASW training Center in San Diego reported month ahead of me. He told the division that I was a feminist ball buster. By the time that I got to the ship, they already had it in for me.
I arrived with a good attitude and did my work. I won a few people over with humor. I was oblivious to me preemptive reputation. I found a “Dog log” where my “Other” names were listed. “Bitch, Dyke, Whore!” I confronted members of my division. I would take bitch and even dyke (I would never use a discriminatory term like that but as far as being called such a thing, who cares) but not whore.
The ship went to the Caribbean for a long cruise. We sailed through three hurricanes off the Florida coast. I was put on a nightly mid watch for six weeks with a shipmate (rapist) who just returned from a night in jail for beating his wife. It was known that I despised him.
Several times I was sexually assaulted by a second class petty officer (Rapist) during this watch. In high seas he would get seasick. Once, he got sick on me while he was trying to assault me.
The ship pulled into Puerto Rico. I bought a bunch of sleeping pills, Nyquil, and allergy medicine that I used to detach as a teenager. I drank Nyquil with sleeping pills. I could not sleep without them.
I took a bunch of Sominex, Nyquil, and Benadryl, and tried to drown myself in Puerto Rico. The Caribbean stays shallow for miles. The next day I called my aunt. She urged me to turn the rapist in. I knew this would come back on me.
I eventually reported it anyway. I went to the HMC, Chief Hospital Corpsman. I was taking a big risk because this HMC had been in trouble for leaking privacy act information about STD’s on the ship. I decided to throw my career away and report the crime.
Shockingly, the Chief’s mess circled their wagons and covered this up. My Senior Chief took me out on the fantail of the ship for a “Smoke break.” He told me that they knew that I was a feminist and that if I said anything more about this, they would have proof that I was just trying to get “The rapist” into trouble.
I was baited and trapped into an argument by my work center supervisor. He ranted that there was nothing wrong with “The Rapist,” “He just grew up in a touchy feely family.” Now some bitch that did not belong in the Navy made a division of people change.
Enter the famous “Unit cohesion” argument! I blew up and went to our LPO and told him in graphic detail what “The rapist” did to me. I blew the unit cohesion argument out of the water.
Whether or not “The rapist” grew up in a touchy feely family or not, I did. I grew up with a touchy feely father and it WAS molestation and it IS molestation now. LPO said, “It’s not molestation. It’s rape. I have three daughters. Report it!”
NCIS Investigated. “The rapist” passed a polygraph. The case was dropped. “Criminal” investigation!
America needs longitudinal policy discussions about preventing this epidemic, preparing women, treating the problem.
After I reported a rape I was put in the hands of two failure psychologists, sent to anger management, and sent to smoking cessation classes. Really? Anger management! Really?
Today I have emerged as a formidable woman. I still cannot sleep. I still jump if people come too close to me. This still hurts.
When they come to accuse me of being a feminist, BRING IT! When survivors need strength, lend them hope. BRING IT!
If the rapists and rape apologist’s think they have won and that we cannot resist and rebuild ourselves, BRING IT!
If they think that women united cannot solve this problem, BRING IT!
Then we win!