“These recruits are entrusted to my care. I will train them to the best of my ability. I will develop them into smartly disciplined, physically fit, basically trained Coast Guard men and women. I will demand of them, and demonstrate by my own example, the highest standards of personal conduct, morality, and professional skill.” – Coast Guard Company Commander Creed
I never truly understood the meaning of the word hopeless until I went to Cape May. Some may judge me based on the fact that I didn’t come forward with my story sooner. That’s fine. I don’t expect those who haven’t been there to understand. When you are in a world where you have it drilled into your head that everyone is out to get you, it’s not quite so simple. When you see the chaplain and the person you fear harm from chatting and being friendly, there’s hopelessness. When you are told that dialing 9-1-1 rings you into the base fire department, where he no doubt has friends, there’s hopelessness. When your aggressor teaches your sexual harassment class and tells you, “if you ever gives you trouble, come to me”, there’s hopelessness. I had a duty to speak. And for a time I remained silent.
When I was in Coast Guard Boot Camp, myself and another shipmate (who like me was a 5’3″ blonde) were subjected to 8 weeks of sexual harassment and verbal abuse at the hands of our Company Commander Carlos Resendez. Petty Officer Resendez would require us to clean his office at night after everyone else had gone to bed and would proceeded to make sexual comments and be inappropriate (i.e. walking up behind me, just shy of having his body touching mine). It was horrific and I was terrified of what he was going to do the entire time, but because of our fear we remained silent. We just wanted to move on our new units and forget what we had left behind. I consider that decision to be the biggest mistake of my life.
In 2010, I had honorably gotten out of the Coast Guard and was trying to move on with my civilian life. That’s when I received the call from my shipmate that had gone through boot camp with and it stopped my heart… “You’re not going to believe this – I met a little blonde girl at my new unit today… Can you guess what happened?” Of course I knew and I immediately felt my heart drop. As it turns out, she had met the female at her unit and asked the typical, “What company were you in? Who were your Company Commanders?” questions common of all junior enlisted Coasties. The conversation quickly brought forth details that were all too familiar. We were not the only ones.
After talking at length, we decided it was time to take a stand. I would make a call to CGIS and report what had happened. I did so, while the other female reported to their local office. It was a lengthy process and it took a great deal of time to finally meet with investigators in person. As the investigation revealed, we were not the only victims. PO Resendez , emboldened and feeling that he would not get caught in his actions after his experience with us had continued to terrorize his recruits In one of his recruit companies after ours, he chose yet another 5’3 blonde, but this time he did not stop with verbal harassment. Given a direct order to comply, my shipmate was sexually assaulted several times during her boot camp experience. She, like us, feared what would happen if she spoke out. This victim, in addition to the female that my boot camp shipmate had met made a total of four known victims.
Last month, September 26th, Resendez pled guilty to Cruelty & Maltreatment and Adultery. He was sentenced to a maximum allowable 12 months confinement, Bad Conduct Discharge, and reduction in rank to an E1. While we were elated that the judge had came down on him with the maximum punishment, it was bitterly disappointing to see that he was not charged with the most heinous crime that he had committed – rape. Due to a flaw in the UCMJ, he could not be tried for rape, because of the fact she was not “forced”. In the UCMJ a direct order (even in a boot camp setting where there is no out whatsoever) is not considered as rape… We must fix the broken way in which our military members are treated in cases that involve sexual assault.
When you are a member of the military, you completely give your voice over to the government and are totally at their mercy to take care of you and ensure that justice is received. In this case, because of a glitch in the system, the perpetrator got off with a much lesser charge than he deserved. I am now attempting to carry this torch and have started a petition to Congress regarding this matter (http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-of-the-united-states-of-america-revision-of-article-120-in-the-uniform-code-of-military-justice ).