My Duty to Speak

College forbid student to share MST story at anti-rape event, college says MST is “too controversial”


My University holds a Take Back the Night ceremony every April to talk about sexual awareness in our community. I submitted my story to the Take Back the Night committee on campus to be considered to be a speaker. The committee composed of students and counselors at the Counseling center that was putting the event together. I was told by the committee that because I was raped in the military and because of the high percentage of Active Duty members and veterans on campus that they won’t be able to allow me to speak. They said that what I went through in the military may offend others. They felt MST was too controversial. The students in the committee advocated for me but the permanent staff on campus overruled them.

Many of my friends and classmates came to my side but by then it were too late since Take Back the Night came and went.

The following year when it was time for Take Back the Night my University not wanting to cause the uproar that it did the previous year decided to include Military Sexual Trauma to the event’s agenda. Instead of allowing a veteran or two to share their personal stories, they felt that it was best to bring a non-veteran employee from the VA to share with the University community the little she knows about MST. The presenter even admitted that she does not directly work with veterans with Military Sexual Trauma but she oversees the entire department for women and “some may have MST.” When asked how MST is different than civilian rape she could not answer. If they wanted a professional view on MST instead of a survivor’s story they should at least have brought in the MST program coordinator at the VA or a speaker from MRCC!

Take Back the Night Foundation has been contacted and they did a Public Relation spin on this matter refusing to make the University accountable for misusing and abusing Take Back the Night name and Logo to silence survivors of military sexual trauma.

This was at University of Massachusetts in Boston.

post has been edited since original posting as per the writer’s request

My Duty to Speak

Army War veteran/MST veteran adjusting to going back to school.

Anonymous, United States Army

I am a 28 years old Army war veteran. I am suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from being raped while serving. I am a student attending a small yet prestigious liberal art college. There have been talk on here about military sexual assault survivors returning to college and I have added my two cents but feel that there is so much more to say.

I went back to classes today after a long weekend. I was able to complete most of my work and academic wise I am doing fine. Emotionally I am a mess when sitting in my classes. I sit in the back seat always, partly due to my PTSD and safety and partly because I feel that nobody should have to see me. I sit quietly with tears rolling down my eyes. For no reason other than I feel like an outside. I feel like I am ostracized. I simply do not have anything to say to the 19 years olds in my class who are living without a care in the world.

It is being ostracized that is the worst. It brings such emotion from my time in the Army that I feel like I am back every time I step inside a classroom. I know that my classmates are not doing it on purpose. I  know that I do not make myself the most approachable while wearing my BDU blouse and sitting in the back crying but the hurt is still all the same. I can put on a fake smile and pretend to care about the keg party that is going on that evening but quite frankly I could care less. I don’t want to change who I am to make friends. I want to make friends who understand what I have been through.

Most who attend my college are wealthy, suburban kids straight out of high school. They were just starting high school, some were still in Junior High when I was being raped in a war zone.  They do not have much real life experience. At times I just want to scream that there is more to life than the mall.  I want to scream to them that there is more to life than parties. I want to scream to them that I WAS RAPED. I WAS TOLD THAT I AM A LIAR. I LOST MY CAREER. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW THAT MAKES ME FEEL? Instead I keep quiet and sit in the back alone.

We do not have a veterans organization or support on campus. Veterans Day came and went with more thought on being another free day off than the meaning behind the day. Like last year I requested a ceremony to honor our military on Veterans Day and they felt that it was not appropriate. They instead display books on Veterans in the library as we are some sort of case study and said that they are doing more than enough to observe Veterans day. Last year during a showing of the film Lioness I requested to be part of the panel to  answer questions about the film. I was denied because I did not have enough experience. I did not have the credentials or the degree to speak about women at war. According to my college a PhD who read books on combat has more credentials than a war veteran to speak about war.

My college  wants to put me on a medical leaves of absence while I deal with my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The idea of not being able to go back to college in the spring scares me. The idea of not having anything to do next semester scares me. I was actually looking forward to the spring semester and felt that it’ll be a change from the norm. I signed up for 2 on-line course, an internship, leaving only 2 classes to be taken on campus one is the internship class which only meets a few times a semester so pretty much just one three credit class which I think was manageable. The Dean of Students contacted my Professors and a couple wrote back saying that I make them feel uncomfortable, that I make them feel unsafe. I sit in the back of the classroom, alone and do my work. I am sorry that I make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. I am sorry if being a quiet, depressed veteran scares you. I fought to protect your freedom and I’ll never hurt you.

I feel the same emotions that I felt when I received my discharged papers. I am no longer wanted. I am broken. Something is wrong with me. As I watch my classmates without a worry in the world caring more about the keg party than the final papers I feel envious. I know that they have a greater chance of graduating college than I do. I know that they have a greater chance of being happy than I do. I know that they have a greater chance of living out their goals than I do. Yes I am envious of them.