PTSD and the Coast Guard

Coast Guard Spouse, United States Coast Guard

My wife is currently stationed with an ANT Team. Last August she was breaking in as one of the coxswains on the boat. Unfortunately, she was involved in a mishap. She took for blame for the mishap since she was driving the boat. After the incident, her command blamed her the accident. She felt isolated and alone. No one at the unit talked to her. She began having nightmares and was unable to sleep. On top of all of this, she was scheduled to receive hip surgery in November which increased the isolation, she felt from her OINC. He told her to man up. He needs surgery, but he has a job to do, so surgery is no option. My wife served 6 years straight on an operational cutter. The hip pain wasn’t getting any better, and she tried a year of physical therapy. All the stress that the unit caused her to put on weight and again she was unable to work out because of the hip pain. In October, she failed her weigh-ins. This was the first time she failed in 10 years. She never failed before. Through all this, my wife tried to fight through it with no help from the Coast Guard. She knew she needed help so she got counseling from the Chaplain. After a few sessions, she talked about the nightmares and lack of sleep. In January, she was referred to a psychologist where they diagnosed her with PTSD. The PTSD was directly caused by the mishap in August. This was also confirmed by a Coast Guard psychiatrist in Cape May. We requested for weight abeyance since the PTSD caused the weight gain. She was denied this waiver.

The officers at Washington D.C. said discharge her and let the VA handle it. We have a copy of that email. My wife did 10 years of service for the Coast Guard and she planned to do 20 more years. To kick her out for weight is wrong. She should be given a medical board and be given medical retirement for either her PTSD or hip. The sad part also is the OINC still has a job after the way he treated her. My wife has nightmares from this guy. The unit she has now has done nothing to help her and are having her discharge in June. We contacted legal, they never call us back. We need help. The Coast Guard doesn’t care about my wife’s condition. They are just throwing her out like a piece of trash and letting the VA handle her. I lost my wife in August because of this mishap. She sleeps on the couch because of the nightmares and is on edge at all times. I don’t want to see this happen to another Coast Guard member. I hope my story helps someone.

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The U.S Navy’s Response to Sexual Violence in 2017: Blame the victim. Don’t charge perpetrator.

Anonymous, United States Navy

I was 18 and thought I knew it all. Fresh out of Navy boot camp and away from my strict Guardian I was ready to live my life the way that I thought I should be able to live it. I was finally allowed to leave the base for the weekend and was going out with a guy and a girl I thought I could trust. I didn’t know that weekend would be the one that would change my life. We got our hotel and had gone to eat and have a fun night out on the town. We stopped by a popular hookah lounge to smoke before going to the 18+ club around the corner. While we were there, we saw two guys we knew from the base. They had a third guy with them that no one knew. The guy in our group invites them to join us. I’m not sure when one of them slipped something in my drink, but I think it had to be when I went to the bathroom.

I don’t really remember much after that. I think I lost about 6 hours. We apparently went to the club and somehow all if we got separated. I ended up back at the hotel with the three guys and the other girl. She was wasted according to what I’ve been told and passed out almost immediately. I woke up with the three guys over me. I started flipping out. I didn’t have anything on, and I was in so much pain. They freaked out when I woke up and left. I was bleeding, and I didn’t know what to do so I cleaned myself up and didn’t say a word. For 6 months I tried to forget about what had happened but if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that things like this just don’t disappear. I started having seizures and flashbacks. Everything would be dark, and there was so much pain. It was time to face this monster head on. I was so scared to tell anyone what had happened.

The Navy has a reputation for not believing rape victims. Thankfully I had a very understanding woman I could talk to. It’s been a year and a half since I came forward and since then life has been hell. The Navy sent me to counseling for “adjustment disorder.” They said that I didn’t acclimate well. I got to the point that I didn’t want to leave my bed. I was depressed and suicidal, but no one cared. I was told multiple times that I was just “one of those girls,” that “I must have just regretted it,” and that “I must have been asking for it.” I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. My doctor made me go over it again and again. She couldn’t believe that I couldn’t remember anything. She acted as though I was lying. I was scared to sleep at night because the nightmares had gotten so bad. I became a perfectionist, and everything had to go my way, or I would freak out. I was given anti-depressants and sleeping pills. It finally got to the point that I couldn’t take it anymore, so I downed a bottle of sleeping pills and later down on my bed. I woke up the next day groggy and upset because my plan hadn’t worked so to numb the pain I started cutting. I was always careful to cut where no one would see. Soon cutting wasn’t enough. I started drinking to numb myself and make it through the day. It was to the point that I was drinking before work as well as after.

A Chief at my command smelled the alcohol on my breath one day and took me aside to ask me about it. I broke down. She became one of my closest confidants at that command. I was finally given a fresh start when I was transferred to a new command. It didn’t last, though. People talk, and it wasn’t long before people knew what had happened to me. I was getting the same looks and the same comments. It wasn’t long after that that the Navy decided to force me out. It’s been a rocky road for the past year. I got a new doctor who listened to me. My diagnosis was changed to PTSD. It’s been almost 3 years since I was raped and two and a half years since I came forward. I just found out they are dropping my case. They say I waited too long to come forward and they don’t have enough evidence. I’m now being told that I could be charged with lying in an official statement. This is the reason that women don’t come forward. I know several women with a similar story to mine, and it’s sad that this is how the military works. For people who say rape culture isn’t a thing think about this. A woman can say I was raped and the courts will ask for timelines, witnesses, rape kits, and other things. When the man says he didn’t do it, the court says okay, we believe you.

Raped at Ft. Hood

I was 19 yrs old stationed with 157 QM Unit Ft. Hood Texas. I needed a ride somewhere the next day. I asked a group of guys sitting at a picnic table that I knew. I said I would give gas money. One of them asked me to follow him, and we could talk about the details. I followed him to his barracks room. He tried to kiss me. I pulled away. He told me I was beautiful. He then choked me and threw me to the ground. As he was raping me from behind, I was yelling for help and yelling stop. It was so painful that I then began praying in my head for him not to kill me until he finished. It was painful. When it was over, he tried to hug me and told me not to tell anyone. I ran out of the room, past the guys at the picnic table to my room. I took a shower and cried. The next day I walked to the police station. I told them what happened and they called my First Sergeant. She called me to her office and said this was all my fault for going into his room. I also told the Commander, but nothing was done.

Soldier raped in Korea

Anonymous, United States Army

I joined the military at 18 because my mother was sick. She died when I was 19yrs old in A.I.T. Two months later I was sent to Korea after being there a month I was raped by a top-ranking soldier. I was already devastated by the death of my mother this just pushed me over the edge. After trying to cope for a few weeks, I couldn’t so I took an overdose of Percocet. At the hospital, I found out I was pregnant with his child. I was horrified. I didn’t know what to do.

In the hospital, I informed my female Sargent, and she told me to keep quiet no one will believe me. She then told me to go off the post in Korea and find a abortions doctor. Abortion is illegal in Korea, and they wouldn’t allow me on a plane until I was 6 months. I had never felt so alone. I gave birth to her, and my family would not allow me to give her up.

She is now 13 and thriving I am a mental case and dying. Its hard enough seeing your attackers face every day, but even harder losing your life and having no help. They did DNA, and it was his. He pays a few dollars a month, but he still gets to live his life. The military refuses to acknowledge my assault. I suppose if it didn’t happen this child must be a ghost. I struggle every day to pay bills, to eat, to care for this child, I have no car, I’m a prisoner serving time. I need help. I was only 19yrs old, what about me??

Three years and finally taking action

Anonymous, United States Coast Guard

I joined in Aug 2011 and went to my first unit in Oct 2011. This was the first time I left my family back at home, and I was on my own. I was living in a place by myself. I was young, 20 yrs old at the time. I made “friends” with my unit, things were going well for the first month or so.

This one “friend” wanted more. I was stupid, and I did give him more, but not the way he wanted it. He went on and showed me the town, went back to my place, never had sex luckily, but he did push for it. We did kiss, and he did touch, but I thought better of it and said time to go. I wanted him out of my house out of my door and to be left alone. He forced himself back in my house pushed me against my wall unable to fight back and push him off. I kept saying no time to go, I tired, leave. He didn’t. I knew he wanted more, but I did not.

The next night he was texting me that he was coming over, he wanted to see me. I said no I don’t want that. Said he could break into my house that it was easy to do so. I slept with a knife and all my lights on because I was alone and scared. I never reported that, due to what was seen, we got into trouble for that. I was to scare to bring up what happened at the time, due to I was already in trouble. My mouth should have opened for that.

Few months past things were quite, then he sends me a vulgar text telling me to sit on him, that I liked it, I wanted it. Stop it, leave me alone, I kept saying it over and over again. Calling my parents crying telling them what was said. The number was blocked been blocked since then. Told command, the command just looked at me and gave me a choice to choose page 7, or bring it up to mast like. I thought a few days and being nice page 7, then thought after a while that I wanted it higher. Well, the command didn’t want that. It was left at that. 3 years later and the same guy still at the station, finally it has been brought to light what he did and he finally paying for it. Talking to CGIS and hoping for an end to this soon.

Raped at Coast Guard Station South Portland, Maine

I joined the U.S. Coast Guard October 31, 1983. After graduating boot camp, I was assigned to a small boat station in South Portland, Maine. It was there that I was brutally raped and told that if I told anyone that my face would be cut up with a knife.

The rape was reported and investigated. There was evidence. I was transferred to another duty station. Word spread, and I experienced harassment about proceeding forward with the case. The rapist was a Second Class Boatswains Mate (E-5). He was later discharged from the service.

I requested counseling and the counselor was a woman who blamed me for the rape. I will never forget her saying; “If women would just say yes there would be no rape.” I ended up holding all emotions in and continued with my service.

As time continued, I experienced headaches, body pains, and panic attacks. In 1991 I sought treatment from the rape crisis center in Miami, FL. I was having difficulty with flashbacks and panic attacks. It was there that I was told that I had Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) delayed-onset. I received care through a civilian therapist.

I had to fight for my medical care and went through 2 medical boards and won both. I transferred to New York in October of 1993. The Coast Guard made healing and recovery difficult.

I went to a National Organization for Women meeting in NYC and listened to a speaker discuss (PTSD). I later went to her for therapy. In 1995 I had an increase in symptoms and realized that if I were to heal, I needed to move on and leave the service. I received a disability retirement in January of 1996. I tried to serve 20 years, but my physical body was worn from the trauma inflicted upon me.

After reporting the first rape and experiencing the after effects of reporting, I decided that I would never report a rape again.

The bystanders

A few years ago I was serving on a cutter in the Coast Guard (I’m at a different unit now). We were at a week-long port call and were moored up at a pier. I was on the mess deck eating lunch with a female coworker on a Monday, and she told me a story.

She said that she was out at a bar with a bunch of other people from the ship and they all got pretty drunk. After coming back to the ship, one of the guys pushed her up against a wall and sexually assaulted her. She couldn’t push him away and had to wait for someone else to walk by and pull him off of her. Another guy walked by and saw it happening, but didn’t do anything because the two of them were friends.

Now, we’re friends. I think of her as like a little sister. I was not happy when I heard this. I knew that I wasn’t thinking clearly because I was angry, so I didn’t do anything and waited until later to talk to someone else. I got her to tell the story to another female that we work with, and I said that my feeling is that we should tell our supervisor and get these two guys in trouble.

The female that it happened to said that she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it, and just to let it go. The other female said that we should just do whatever the other wants to do with it. Their main thought was that we’re in a job that no one on the ship likes and the other two was thought of as everyone’s friends.

They were afraid that she would get in trouble and everyone would take the guys’ side. As much as I hated to let it, go….they were probably right. We never did anything about it. It still haunts me to this day. I hate seeing bad people go unpunished.

Raped and retaliated against in the U.S Navy.

Anonymous, United States Navy

It took a lot of courage to come forward and report I was sexually assaulted by my army supervisor (e-7) and his Afghan colleague who both worked for the 3star Army command general.

I thought there would be an investigation and that I would be allowed to continue doing my job, especially with other women in my same shop coming forward and reporting similar actions from the same supervisor around the same time as me. I turned down his advances, and he said, “that’s okay because even if you’re not into me, I have an associate who is also interested in you for sex.” But my words fell on deaf ears when my supervisor once again cornered and attacked me at work.

I did not make it back to my barracks room the same night without being forcibly raped by his associate, and one of the guys at the next base they moved me to joked in front of my new co-workers (my third day thereafter my navy e-9 called ahead and warned the new command I had been raped and was somehow now “their problem” to be “dealt with”) that he would be the next to rape me (after I learned I would have to do detainee ops and sort through decapitated body parts instead of my job as an IT as punishment for coming forward while the three-star covered up the investigation because it was an election year and spearheaded 3 years of retaliation and mistreatment that cost me my career and barred me from getting accurate, ethical medical care, especially after I reported HIPAA violation at the next place I was transferred). Being assaulted was bad enough.

I did not officially enter hell until I spoke up about it and the military commands did everything in their power to distract me, discredit me, demoralize me, and destroy my once promising career as they railroaded me out of the service for political reasons.

Friendly Fire, Not So Friendly

They say a Marine on duty has no friends. Truer words have never been spoken.

My experience in the military has been one of accomplishment, pride, and endurance. It was also heartbreaking, emotionally disturbing, and disappointing. I enjoyed being in the Marine Corps. It was challenging. It pushed me to limits I didn’t even know existed, and beyond. After completing MOS school, I was stationed aboard a tropical island, many only dreams of going.

I was doing well for myself aboard my station, received recognition for achievements, and I was satisfied. I met my husband, and we began our family together. There had already been rumors that there were Marines who were not conducting themselves properly. Our unit had come under investigation, which wasn’t surprising given the fact leadership did nothing to change how Marines were behaving nor how problems were handled. The “keep it in-house rule” was applied for anything that arose from underage drinking to attacks on females in an attempt to keep them quiet. Not my problem. It was “above my pay grade.”

Duty NCO’s are in charge of keeping the peace in the barracks, and I have my own things to deal with. Besides, I didn’t live in the barracks. Around this time, a family member of mine became gravely ill. I had used up all of my leave and was unable to go home. My husband, in turn, went with our son to see this family member as we were unsure whether they would pass due to their illness. I packed up their things and sent them on their way. They were set to return three weeks after their departure. This was my first time being apart from my son, and staying in a multi-story house alone did nothing to ease this. I became very work oriented often spending an additional 2-3 hours after the close of business of the work day. Thing’s hadn’t been going too well at work because a disgruntled higher-up had been removed from his position and placed in my work section. The wonderful joys of dealing with an angry old school Marine who believes women should be making coffee, sweeping the floors, and staying at home. The weekend following my family’s departure was much welcomed and brought about a sense of relief for two days.

As usual, I went over to see my neighbor who husband was on deployment. So, girls night, we had ourselves a couple of drinks and enjoyed watching several shows. Earlier in the day, another neighbor had invited her to come over and partake in a cookout they were having. I was asked to come. We shared drinks, enjoyed some food, and were inebriated by midnight. I called it a night and returned to my house which was down the street. Somewhere along the lines, a Marine I knew had come over unannounced and was at this cookout. I didn’t know or realize until the next morning. I didn’t recall much of the night and much less when I got home to my couch to sleep. Somehow I had arisen in my bed, hair saturated with water, and my vagina was sore. My neighbor said this person had come inside of my house with me and she had eventually left, with him still in my house. Great battle buddy indeed. Anyway, I brushed off the incident since I didn’t remember anything and didn’t want to make a big deal about it. After all, it was nothing right?

The following day after the incident we went to our day, grocery shopping, mall, lunch, the usual things military spouses and members do on the weekend. I didn’t know where my phone was and chalked it up to be a loss in my drunken stupor. Night fell quickly, and I was feeling better about what had happened earlier in the day. My neighbor came over, which on occasion I would be the one over at her house. A fellow Marine I knew was having a rough day, so I invited them to come over as well. We were sitting in my living room and watched movies on my television. I left my door unlocked because I was living on base. Apparently, nothing bad happens on military bases. Ever. In walks the Marine from the other night and it kind of shocked me. I didn’t invite him to come over, and he walks through my door like he owned the place. I didn’t want to start any trouble or anything to that effect. I went to the kitchen and called my neighbor. I told her I felt “weird” and was feeling tired. I went outside with her, and we smoked several cigarettes. After this, I went upstairs to my bedroom locked the door. They continued to drink and talk downstairs. I changed into a pair of pajamas I had and looked forward to jumping in my bed. New sheets and comforter so that when my husband came home, he would be impressed I put an effort to making his return joyous. We had moved in relatively recently and didn’t really have things like coffee tables and decorations. All of which I bought that weekend. I woke up at 3 or 4 that morning to my pajama bottoms being ripped off. I could see his outline, I could smell him. I knew who it was.

My friend, my fellow Marine I had known for a long time, doing the unthinkable. I knew my other male marine friend was in the other room because he would never drive after drinking. I went to yell at him, but he told me not to and covered my mouth. He continued to do as he please, all the while I struggled. I was scared. I was angry. I was hurt. I finally was able to kick him off of me. He went to grab his stuff; I pulled the comforter over my head. I heard the door click shut. I cried myself to sleep that night. The following morning I woke up to another female Marine I was very close to shaking me. She had entered through the garage after my husband instructed her to check on me since neither one could get a hold of me. We were to go to the beach that morning. I moved the sheets to find that I was sitting in a pool of blood. I didn’t know what was going on. I yelled at her and threw her out. It’s always the ones we love we hurt the most. I jumped in the shower and cried and cried until I had no more tears. I got dressed and headed downstairs. The marine who had stayed in the other room was sitting on the couch, after having cleaned up a bit. I sat on the sofa and told him everything. He asked me what did I want to do. We both knew if I said anything, bad always comes down the pipeline. I wanted to pretend that nothing happened. I knew if I said something everything I held to be good and right in the world would come crashing down and it would make the Rape real. It’s still difficult to say he raped me. We went to the gas station so that I could fill up my SUV. When we got there, I saw my friend. She had been through the same circumstances. I grabbed her and hugged her and told her everything. She held me close and said you need to speak the police. I looked, and she said I can’t. I’m scared. You know what’ll happen. No one will believe me. She respected me enough to let me make that decision on my own. Later that day I mustered enough willpower to tell my husband what happened. I reported the incident to the police.

I knew once I said this it was going to become a mad house in my battalion. It had taken a long time before the police convinced me to give them his name. Marines would call me a liar. I was ridiculed and forced to sit through SAPR training which contains a reenactment of rape. Worse of all, I would have a battalion that would not support me and force me to work with this Marine, in the same unit, only 10 feet away every day. All the Marines I knew would shun me and turn their backs. Marines would drive by and yell obscenities as I walked down the street. I said what was happening to me after I reported the rape to the Battalion Commander. I was told not to complain and ‘Duty before self.’ I was discharged from the Marine Corps four months later. Several other female Marines came forward with their stories of rape from the same Marine. After seeing how I was treated, all retracted their statements. I don’t blame them. A Marine on duty has no friends. No room for doubt in the Marine Corps Fidelity.

Nobody to turn to.

Wronged Recruit, United States Army
I had loved hanging out at the recruiting station, chatting with my recruiter, SFC H. He seemed like a nice guy. Always willing to come pick me up across town since I didn’t have a car, let me use his computer since I didn’t have internet, answer any question I may have even if it wasn’t military related. It took me 6 months from when I first walked in that door to when I swore in. SFC H was in the process of leaving for deployment with his wife and kids. I swore in June 27, 2012. A week or so later, SFC H wanted to take me out to dinner to celebrate. He said he took all his recruits out. I agreed. We went to a pizza place and chatted for a while.

We talked about the online training I had to complete and that I didn’t have internet. He offered to let me come back to his hotel room and use his computer. I was hesitant. He insisted, saying it was for military business/training. I was still hesitant, but agreed. We did most of my training, then chatted about basic and AIT for a while. He started talking about how I needed to “get my lovin done before I went.” Then he offered to help me with that. I declined and said I had to leave. He reminded me that he had the power to get my contract cut. He made me sleep with him. He told me not to tell anyone.

When I got to basic, we had our SHARP training. I finally broke down and told our liaison. She took me straight to the 1SG, who had me go to CID. They took my statement and said they would be in touch. I received one call via my CO during basic from CID. My Drill Sgts told me to get over it and that I should be fine with them running their hands from hips to ankles during shake downs after the range, etc. I wasn’t. The DS constantly singled me out and belittled me for having those issues. I ended up being discharged after my “battles” told me I was lying and to kill myself to save them the trouble.

I received a couple emails and one or two phone calls from CID after that. Then an email stating that they had closed the case with no repercussions for SFC H. I was crushed. Not only was my trust in my NCOs shattered, but my trust in my battle buddies and the UCMJ. JAG didn’t do anything. Anytime I tried to talk to somebody about it, I was blown off. The VA isn’t much help, helplines aren’t much help, I’ve even tried civilian sources. The second I mention military, they stop paying attention. I have constant nightmares about him coming after me. I am so jumpy it’s now a joke and game to my coworkers to see me jump out of my skin when they sneak up behind me. I can’t sleep, I eat so much I’ve gained over 50 lbs since basic. I’m at a complete loss as to what to do anymore. It’s a nightly battle convincing myself that suck-starting my pistol won’t solve my problems. I feel so alone.