J, United States Army
I have been on the sidelines for a number of years, a secret survivor, cheering on those who were standing up, telling their stories. I’ve realized I cannot hide anymore. Hiding for me, has been a way to deny that what happened to me was real, a way to hide from the devastating emotional impacts of surviving.
I enlisted in the Army reserves in Sept of 2005- I had dreamed of enlisting for years – growing up everyone said I was going to be a ministry or a soldier. Although my ASVAB scores qualified me for many jobs, I really wanted to be in the Military Police (31B). I arrive at Ft. Leonard Wood for One Station Unit Training (OSUT) in the middle of the night, having taken the 3 hour bus ride from St. Louis. Honestly, from that point until I left reception, my military experience was pretty normal. Long lines – paperwork, shots, clothing, powerpoints. I got to my training company and things went fine as far as red phase of boots camp goes. The usual long hours, fast pace, never any down time. After a while things began to slow down and we settled into a training routine. That all changed during the winter. I was the victim of non-consensual sodomy and indecent assault when a fellow trainee sexually assaulted me one night after lights out.
The assault quickly became my darkest secret. All through OSUT I pretended it didn’t happen and just tried to ignore it… but by January 2006, the guilt, shame and confusion had grown too much to handle. During a quiet period about 5 or 6 weeks before graduation, I attempt suicide. I had my military belt set up to hang myself in the showers, but I was interrupted by a fellow trainee known as “Mormon” (because he was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). He must have sensed something other than homesickness was wrong and just sat and talked with me for what felt like forever. It was probably only a few minutes, but it was enough to stop me.
I didn’t tell him what had happened… it was still my secret… Later, in February of 2006, in a hazing incident, I was grabbed and duct taped in our sleeping bay. Although this was unrelated to the assault it just furthered the feelings of depression and shame.
The final humiliation came in late February of 2006, during an “amnesty day – when soldiers usually confess where they hid their cigarettes or dvd’s or cell phones during the last few months – but where my attacker told everyone what he had done and faced no repercussions. This series of events have haunted me in the years since.
I never reported it, partially because the perpetrator had confessed in front of the drill sergeants and nothing happened to him and because I thought I deserved it (“I guess I just gave off a gay vibe” or “it was just hazing” ) For years, I’ve tried to keep it a secret, even from myself – to deny that it had really happened or that it was has bad as it was, but all that denial just did was re-traumatize me day after day. I wish I could conclude my account with some pithy and brilliant summary, but I can’t. All I know is that I can’t stay silent anymore. It is my duty to speak.