I joined the National Guard in 2015 because I needed the money for school. I worked a bit after high school but were not able to save enough to go to college. When a recruiter met with me and told me that I was able to go to school and “only had to commit to a weekend a month and two weeks a year and they’ll help me pay for college. I signed up right away. It was my only way out of a minimum wage job.
My parents were proud when they saw me in uniform. My parents are immigrants. They worked so hard to assimilate into the American life. Seeing their daughter in uniform confirmed to them that their hard work finally paid off. Their daughter was wearing the uniform of the U.S. military. How more American can one get?
I got along with everyone in the AZ Army National Guard. People that I never thought I would ever hang out with became very close to me. We often went out and partied together on the weekends that we were not at drill. I enjoyed spending time with them. Looking back now there were some things that I wish I paid more attention to.
My nickname from them was ‘illegal’. They will make jokes about ICE coming to deport me. I was born in the United States! I wanted to think that it was a joke but looking back now I see how racist that it truly was.
My rape happened after one of those nights we partied. We ended up at SGT ***** apartment. Some continued drinking. I am not much of a drinker. I had a few drinks when I went out but did not want to continue drinking at the after party. Instead, I drank a diet coke. I started feeling lightheaded and sick. That was when SGT **** came on to me. After that, I blacked out. I woke up the next morning semi-naked, groggy, and unsure of what happened.
I went home. At this point, I am still living with my parents. It is the tradition in my culture to still be living at home and be in your 20’s. My mom saw me and asked what happened to me. She tried calling me and my phone was off. She was obviously very worried. I said that I am fine and that I was tired.
The thought of reporting what happened never crossed my mind. First of all, I don’t even know exactly what happened! Part of me is happy that I do not remember all the details but part of me wishes that I did so I can have a clearer picture of what happened. Secondly, I heard so many horror stories from others in the Guard about how rape victims are treated that I knew it’ll be best to keep my mouth shut.
Back during drill weekends, everyone acted like everything was normal. I went back to being called ‘illegal’. I was asked if I wanted to go out partying with them. At times I even said yes. If I could pretend nothing happened then can I convince myself that nothing happened?
I did not tell anyone until November 2016. At school, we saw the movie The Invisible War. A waterfall of tears came running down my face. After class, my Professor pulled me aside and asked if I was okay. I said yes. She said if I want to talk to anyone that she knows some people that I can talk to. I said that I was fine and left. I could not stop thinking about what she said. During office hours the same week, I went to her office. I broke down and told her everything. I mean. I do not even know what happened. She listened. She wrote down the name of a friend of who is a counselor that works on a sliding scale. Several weeks later I called her friend and she set me up with an appointment. I did an intake and started counseling there. She was non-judgmental and overall a very nice person.
I went a few times but with the even small portion that I had to pay, I was having difficulties if I wanted to continue. In my family, we all pool our money together to pay for bills. There was only so much I could keep before it becomes noticeable. Mental health treatment is viewed unfavorably in my culture. My mom would never have understood why I needed help. To her, God and family, not a counselor, is who we should turn to when we have a personal problem.
Let me also make this very clear. Any sort of counseling or treatment is extremely frowned upon within the National Guard and I guess the entire military. I have known many that lost clearances and even their careers because they reached out trying to get help. I was absolutely not going to hinder my job.
My counselor helped me locate free resources and told me about the VA and the Military Rape Crisis Center. I watched the news. I knew what was happening at the Phoenix VA so I decided to call the Military Rape Crisis Center.
The person that I have spoken to at the Military Rape Crisis Center set me up with counseling. The counselor that he sent me to was very nice. I went for three weeks.
I missed one appointment because my little sister got sick and I needed to bring her to the doctor. I kept on missing her calls to reschedule and I did not have the courage or motivation to call back. I stopped going.
Maybe I not ready for counseling. The thing is I do not even know what happened to me. Maybe I am protecting myself by still denying what happened?
I spoke to MRCC employee I forgot her name and she suggested that I try yoga. I am still going to their yoga classes. She also tried to get me to go to the group but I just do not see myself fitting into that. Again, I am not even sure what even happened. I have nothing to say. For now, I am sticking to yoga. I do not have to talk during that.
I do not plan on re-enlisting. After college, I want to have a good job to help support my parents and siblings. That was after all the reason I enlisted in the first place. For now, I need to get through it. I dread every drill weekend but I keep on going by thinking about my goals and my life after this chapter of my life is over.