Sarah, United States Air Force
It all began 22 March 2003. I landed in a foreign land as a technical school graduate. After departing my flight I got settled into this new land called Okinawa. When I finally got acclimated to the shop I met my first supervisor, Staff Sergeant ***** Our first supervisor/trainee session was at CoCo’s, the local curry shop. Since this was all new to me, I thought that this was how bonds were built between the ranks. Then **** began telling me about all of his heterosexual and homosexual relationships he had been having on the island. Mind you, this man was married with a child. I began to feel like this encounter was not going as it should and was feeling very uncomfortable about the topic.
After our food came he propositioned me. He said, “If you have sex with me I will give you a five out of five on your performance report. If not, I will give you a one and take away all hopes of your having any type of successful career in the military.” I held off on his advances. Every day I worked with him was a day I would dread. He would ask questions such as: “If this tool were my penis, what would you do with it?” I avoided him at all costs. There was only one other female in the shop. One day we were having a drink and ****’s name was mentioned and I told her what was going on. Later she informed the Flight Chief without my knowledge. The next thing I knew, I was being questioned in the Flight Chief’s office and I told him everything that was going on. He changed my shift and supervisor. Then he swept the incident under the rug because it was clear that Staff Sergeant **** was the flight’s golden child who received all of the awards.
I’m not quite sure whether I developed an allergy to jet fuel or if it had something to do with all the stress I was under in my shop. Either way, I could no longer do my duty as a fuel system mechanic. In October I began working for the squadron doing odds and ends jobs. In March the dorm needed an escort to take Okinawans in and out of the dorm rooms so they could work on the fire suppression system. I began working with the contractors and one of the men began to become very friendly with me. I just ignored his behavior, not seeing him as threatening. He would point to his penis and say “piku, piku.” I ignored him because I didn’t know what that meant.
Then on 29 March 2004 we went to room 145 of building 600. I was reading a Playstation magazine article about a samurai video game. He came over and asked to look at the article. I showed it to him and he took his phone out and showed me a picture of his baby daughter. Then he put his phone away and grabbed my shoulders and started to rub them. I pushed his hands away and made an “X” with my arms and told him to go back to work. Then he grabbed my breasts and began rubbing them. I made an “X” with my arms and told him no and to go back to work. Then he grabbed for my BDU (battle dress uniform) pants and unbuttoned them and began stroking my groin area with his fingers. I pushed him away and made an “X” and told him to work. Then I pulled out my phone and texted my boyfriend at the time who then stayed with me the rest of the shift. That was on a Friday. On Monday, my boyfriend informed the dorm chief what had transpired on Friday.
I begged to speak with my First Sergeant but was denied. First the dorm chief spoke with the lead contractor. He brushed it off. Then she received approval from her squadron to call the security forces and they showed up along with the Okinawan police. I identified my attacker out of a lineup and continued asking to speak with my First Sergeant. Then the Okinawan police took me back to the room and had me reenact everything while they took pictures. At this point I still had not seen or spoken with my First Sergeant and the Okinawan police took me to their police station. They allowed no English speaking person to be with me at any time. My squadron Commander, First Sergeant, and Flight Chief were all too busy to come to the police station to find out what was going on. So the squadron sent a random Staff Sergeant whom I had never met to assist me in any way he could. Once again I had to identify my attacker from another lineup. I gave my statement and signed something that I think was what I had said to the police officers, however I wasn’t sure because it was all in kanji, the written language of Japan.
After the Okinawan police had finished their questioning, I had to go to the Military Law Enforcement Desk, which instructed me to return the next day. When I returned, I had to first give my statement to a detective, and then I had to write my statement out completely. After all that, I was finally allowed to see my First Sergeant. After I began talking to the First Sergeant, he pulled me into the Commander’s office. My Commander told me I was too emotional for the situation and that he didn’t want me in “his” military. He then called the mental health clinic and began asking how he could get me discharged from the military. So the process of being separated from the service began while I was dealing with the sexual assault. After that I met with the military prosecutor and again told the details of my traumatic event. Finally I made it to the Okinawan prosecutor. He told me the man who had sexually assaulted me would not be tried.
I was told by this prosecutor that it was my attacker’s first time and that because his wife had just had a baby, what he had done to me was ok. At this juncture, the people above me tried discharging me from the military on two separate occasions and they failed each time. After three years in Japan, I was sent to McChord AFB in Lakewood, WA. I was working with a therapist on getting over my trauma overseas. And then, while at home one day, I was raped. I was the head coach of the squadron soccer team and one of the players was a Master Sergeant in my flight. There had been a couple of complaints about his behavior to Military Equal Opportunity, information I wish I had known beforehand. On the last Friday of April we played a hard game and lost, not surprising since we didn’t win any games that season. I went home as usual, cleaned up and sprawled out on my futon to watch a movie.
I received a couple of phone calls from a Master Sergeant **** asking me to go out to a bar with him. I told him no and that I was going to sleep. Around 10:00 p.m. I received a knock on the door. I looked out the peephole, saw that it was Master Sergeant ****, and thinking something important was going on I opened the door. From that point on my life was in fast forward to pause to slow motion to the end. When I opened the door I could smell the booze on his breath. He grabbed my arm and took me to my bedroom. He threw me on my bed and tore off my clothes. He held a knife to my throat. I asked him what he was doing. He didn’t answer.
Then I froze. Within a split second, I had flashbacks of every trauma I had ever experienced. Then he was on top of me with his pants down and he began the act of raping me. He first began by inserting his penis into my vagina. It seemed like he was rocking back and forth forever. Then he told me to tell him that I wanted him to cum inside me. Wanting things to end, I said it. Then he came. Then he flipped me over and began to sodomize me. I just remember the pain and then him telling me to say the same phrase to him again. So I complied again. He pulled his black boxers and black Levis up. He then hit me a couple of times and told me no one must know of our relationship. So I kept quiet.
About the end of May I had been drinking and when someone mentioned Master Sergeant ***, I began to cry and told them I had been raped by him. Little did I know that by revealing this information, I would eventually be victimized again by deceit and falsehoods. In late July my Commander promised to hold my hand during an entire Office of Special Investigations inquiry. I believed her, but unfortunately that turned out to be a blatant lie. When I finally gathered up enough courage to talk to the investigators, I let them know all that had happened. They did their investigation and then they called Master Sergeant **** in for questioning. He claimed that on the night in question, the team was going to a bar to hang out. He said he went to my place to pick me up to go with, but that I had told him I didn’t want to go and that we sat and had a drink. Once the Commander heard his story she backed away from me and said she couldn’t choose sides. She then told me that his wife had just had a baby and that this was his first offense. She then assigned Master Sergeant **** to a workstation 100 yards away from mine which meant that I would have to see him each and every day when I left or came to work. Some days he would approach me and I would have anxiety attacks. Other times I was forced to be in the same room with him. That year I was hospitalized in the psychiatric unit seven separate times. The Commander grew angry and told me that I needed to have bearing and to start behaving like a good Airman.
After being hospitalized a few times I lost all faith in the military and its elite brotherhood through thick and thin and requested a medical discharge. I missed out on making rank—something I had been looking forward to—but I thought I would be able to stop reliving the trauma with the military no longer there. That did not work. Sometimes I get down on myself, thinking I didn’t go to war so why do I get to be a veteran? I did what only one percent of the general population does. I signed that dotted line and said I would march into battle for my country if called upon. I just wasn’t called upon. Because of the traumatic experiences I had on the homefront, I had to take care of that first before they would send me to any more traumatic places, which is why I still am a veteran. I am proud to be a veteran. I think all veterans should be proud. I’ve been in inpatient psychiatric units on approximately ten separate occasions. When you are in the inpatient unit, you are stripped of everything, given pajamas to wear all day, and are medicated. When you’re in the unit you cannot leave for any reason other than a discharge. There is a possibility that you can be put into four-point restraints. Once you become stable enough to return to real life, they then release you. But what is real life when you live with post-traumatic stress disorder?