You are about to read true first person testimonies of sex abuse in the United States military. A lot of the survivors do go into details about their sexual assault, rape and the military response to the rape. Reading these testimonies might be upsetting to survivors of sexual violence. Please take that into account before continue reading.
My Duty to Speak started as a writing workshop in Cambridge, MA for Military Sexual Trauma survivors that were hosted by the Military Rape Crisis Center in November 2010. The day workshop was taught by some of the greatest trauma and writing specialist in the country. By writing about what we went through while wearing the uniform, we broke the silence of abuse liberating ourselves while also might be helping someone else who is feeling the same way.
We are thankful for so many survivors who came forward to share their Military Sexual Trauma testimonies with us. As you can read from the testimonies, the military response to rape is often as disturbing and horrifying as the act of rape itself. Want to do something to help survivors? Take Action and call your representatives and demand better treatment for sexual assault survivors in the military. Head over to change.org and sign our brand new Petition to demand better treatment to survivors of rape in the Coast Guard. If you are interested in sharing your testimony go to Be Heard.
My staff and I are always available to you email me at email@example.com . Together we are making a difference and improving the military response to sex abuse within it ranks. However, there is a lot more that needs to be done, and we can not do this without you, your support and your voice!
We do not take liability for anything posted on here.
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.
By Panayiota Bertzikis
One in three women as well as many men in the Coast Guard are going to fall victim of sexual assault and rape. While a lot of focus has been on the Department of Defense to make changes, the United States Coast Guard-which falls under the Department of Homeland Security has been exempt from having to implement the same DoD policies that would help sexual assault survivors.
Two weeks ago Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) wrote to the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard to express their concern that the Coast Guard has not yet adopted an expedited transfer policy for victims of sexual violence as have the military departments under the authority of the Department of Defense. To this day the Coast Guard refuses to adopt to the STRONG Act even though it might save the life of a Coast Guard rape survivor.
The United States Coast Guard has refused the Military Rape Crisis Center’s numerous pleas to have trained victim advocates at every single Coast Guard installation. For instance if a woman or man is raped at a small boat station in Maine they have to contact the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) in Boston, Massachusett-two states away. If that is not daunting enough many survivors and civilian service providers report that phone calls and emails to the SARC in Boston are often not returned leaving the survivors alone, scared and vulnerable for repeat attacks.
Coast Guardsmen in Maine are not the only ones that lack the support that they need to make a confidential immediate report and receive the help that they deserve. Many Coast Guard stations throughout the United States do not have trained victim advocates to offer immediate help for survivors of sexual assault and rape.
As a Coast Guard rape survivor and a full time victim advocate working with the Military Rape Crisis Center I know first hand the severity of this epidemic. Due to the lax policies on sexual assault in the US Coast Guard what we are seeing at the Center is an increase of Active Duty Coast Guardsmen and women seeking services from us. The rapes are becoming much more violent and the retaliation for reporting an assault is becoming much more vicious.
A group of Active Duty Coast Guardsmen, veterans and the general public got together to help bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse in the Coast Guard. Together we formedwww.SupportTheCG.com as a way to bring awareness and to help end this epidemic that has hurt so many of our shipmates. Please sign the petition so our shipmates can one day serve their country without fear of being sexually assaulted and/or raped.
Non-rate, United States Coast Guard
I knew of the rape problems that the military has but my recruiter ensured me that it was all DoD problems and that the Coast Guard is the “most women-friendly” branch of service. My recruiter said that unlike the DoD all of the jobs in the Coast Guard are open to women which proves that the Coast Guard treats women fairly. He said that there might be stories out there but things has changed. It sounded convincing enough so I signed along the dotted lines. It did not take me long to find out that my recruiter was wrong.
At basic training my company commander brushed himself against my breasts. After it happened many more times you must rule out that it was accidental. I spoke to the females in my company about it. Others experienced the same thing and felt it was creepy. Together we all went to our lead company commander to report it. Our lead company commander said that he’ll talk to the CC that did this to us. It stopped.
My unit is porno central. Every where you looked was porn. Every computer’s screensaver and desktop photo showed porn. I reported it. I was told that if I wanted butterflies and unicorns that I should have been a preschool teacher. I was told that this is the Coast Guard. Porn is harmless and needed to help the men. I worked in a professional setting prior to enlisting in the Coast Guard. Why are civilian men capable of doing their work without viewing porn but Coast Guardsmen are not?
Being raised in a Christian home I find pornography very offensive. I was able to track down the Coast Guard’s porn policy and showed it to my Chief. Porn in the workplace is against Coast Guard policy. Chief denied the policy and ignored my findings by saying that it is “just kiddie porn” that is not allowed.
Shortly after things went downhill. I was viewed as a trouble maker. You become the tattletale; the snitch. Not one person wants to include you in anything out of fear that I’ll be running to the Chief to report them. I was also told that I am jealous of the women on the computer because I am not as pretty as they are. Instead of tackling the real issue I became the problem.
My sexual assault happened on December 22, 2012. I was awaken by a Petty Officer first class with his hand down my pants. I screamed. He ran out. When I was asked about my scream I lied and said that I was having a bad dream.
Things have been getting considerably worst. When I see the PO1 he always tells: “bitch. make me a sandwich” jokes. The men openly describe incidents that are by definition rape. The women laugh at their jokes. If you are familiar with Michael Nodianos and the Steubenville video you have some sort of idea of what Coast Guardsmen laugh about and what I have to listen to each and everyday.
We have at least two women here that are here because they have been raped. They are at different units but it is common knowledge that they been raped. Several often make fun of them. Even the women laugh at other women for reporting rape. The Chief and others often hear the jokes but not once put an end to them.
The other women here all laugh at rape jokes and partake in pornography. The most shocking of it all was when we were all at a bar two of the women were ordered to make out with each other. They did. They also flashed their breasts in the cab. A PO3 said “That is exactly why I love having women in the Coast Guard.” The women laughed. Both of these women are in heterosexual relationships. They only made out with each other because it turned the guys on.
We were ordered to move some furniture around. Two of the women sat there and said that it was too heavy for them. The men moved the furniture it for them. I am half their size and did the work for myself without any help. If you ask any of the women they would tell you that they are not treated any differently because they are women. It is sad that these women feel that showing their breasts or showing that they are weak, delicate creatures is the only way to get ahead in the US Coast Guard. Sadly, they are right. Their careers are flourishing. My career was threatened.
This leaves me to the last bit. I am always reminded that I might be kicked out for failure to adopt to military life. I have completed all of my qualifications. I have not had any disciplinary problems. Because I have a problem that others view porn and because I do not laugh at rape “jokes” I am the one that is allegedly not able to stay in the Coast Guard. As of now the threats of kicking me out within the 6-months mark has been action-less threats. It scares me though that I might be out of a career because others are breaking Coast Guard policies.
Women are not treated equally in the Coast Guard.
Read more here.
We want to thank everyone that took their time to contact us about this case.
We were contacted by many on Active Duty Coast Guardsmen or women that witnessed Captain Decola verbally and emotionally abuse rape survivors. Even though what Decola did was clearly barbaric the amount of support and love from Active Duty Coast Guardsmen and women that contacted us was monumental. We thank everyone that took the time to contact us or post a comment on this blog. We know how difficult that it is to come forward while still on Active Duty and we admire your bravery.
Together we can help eliminate abuse by Pete Decola-and others like him who are abusing our shipmates who already suffered through the unthinkable. Join me to SupportTheCG.com so my shipmates won’t have to suffer the way that I did under Pete Decola’s command.
Thank you. Semper Paratus
While most people serving in the U.S Armed Forces are doing so honorably without assaulting anyone–or covering up and/or blaming a survivor that comes forward there are the handful of individuals that hurt our service members and often do so to multiple victims. Our Wall of Shame highlights those that spent most of their careers abusing our US Service members and veterans.
Today we are adding Captain Pete Decola to the Wall of Shame.
Pete Decola is a United States Coast Guard Captain. He is currently serving at Coast Guard Boston.
-In 2006 a woman was beaten, raped and severely retaliated against. As retaliation for reporting the rape she was sexually assaulted by friends of the rapist. According to a Coast Guardsman that witnessed -and put an end to the sexual assault before it escalated- he tried to get the woman helped, including speaking to Mr. Pete Decola but Decola REFUSED to help the woman. The witness to the sexual assault posted his story here.
-In 2007, Pete DeCola was instrumental in kicking out a rape survivor from the Coast Guard for reasons of she reported a rape. According to emails and documentations obtained by My Duty To Speak, Pete Decola refused to help a shipmate that was raped.
-A civilian anti-rape advocate/peer rape counselor was verbally assaulted by Pete Decola. She wrote about her ordeal for CNN. Read it here.
-Many Active Duty Coast Guardsmen came forward to say that they have witnessed Peter Decola verbally abuse women in the Coast Guard that reported rape. Many witnesses report that Pete DeCola has used words such as “crazy”, “liar” and “nut job” to describe our US Coast Guardsmen and disabled veterans that been raped or sexually assaulted.
The most notorious of all was last summer when Captain Pete Decola announced to a room full of Coast Guardsmen and women that women that report rape are “crazy” and “liars” he then went on to talk about CONFIDENTIAL information about rape cases that he was aware of. In the audience was two known rape survivors. Both rape survivors contacted us upset, triggered and disgusted by Captain Pete DeCola’s behavior.
As a result of Pete Decola’s rant against rape survivors one of the survivor left the Coast Guard as soon as her contract was up.
How many other rape survivors were in the room? Even though one might never know how many rape survivors have been hurt by Pete Decola the statistics of rape in the military are well know.
The United States Congress estimates that as many as 1 in 3 women and 1 in 10 men would experience sexual violence while serving in the United States Coast Guard. Divide that by the number of people that heard his “women that report rape are crazy” rants and you would get an estimate of how many suffered because of Captain Decola’s pro-rape attitude.
The US Congress also estimates that less than 10% of all rapes are ever reported due to harsh retaliation against the victim (such as losing their careers, being called “crazy” and “liars”, etc…) The United States Congress also estimates that less than 90% of all reported rapes end up in trial–with most accused rapist leave the Coast Guard with an HONORABLE discharge.
The abuse against the men and women in the Coast Guard needs to stop. Being raped in traumatizing enough. We do not need Captain Pete Decola to inflict secondary trauma to the brave men and women that volunteered to serve their country.
We are hoping that Captain Pete Decola stops abusing men and women in the Coast Guard that report rape. Our Coast Guardsmen and women deserve better.
If you have been abused by Captain Pete Decola or have witnessed Pete Decola or anyone else blame, not believe or abuse a Coast Guard rape survivor please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-written by M.