My Duty to Speak

Is rape the new DADT? It sure is in the Coast Guard

repost from

Melissa, United States Air Force

I am writing regarding an incident on the Open Guard USCG Facebook group page on July 26, 2012. A Coast Guard reserve member within the LGB community felt safe enough with Open Guard USCG to come out as a rape survivor. She expressed how she felt her rape was mishandled because of her sexual orientation. What followed was several other women both Active Duty and Veterans stated that they too been victims of sexual violence while serving in the US Coast Guard. The thread became an educational, supportive and healing medium for many within the group. Sadly it was all put to an end after Mark Dietrich, a Coast Guard officer and a moderator for Open Guard USCG, felt that suffering from rape because of one’s sexual orientation is “off topic”.

A Coast Guard member responded by saying, “Thank again for reminding me that I have no place in the Coast Guard even in the LGBT Open Guard” and a Coast Guard veteran also responded by saying, “I thought this group was to support each other as shipmates to improve the Coast Guard for future generations?” These two comments were determined to be criticizing the Coast Guard and negative so therefore every woman that reported that they been sexually abused because of her sexual orientation was barred from participating in Open Guard USCG. This is super concerning, particularly coming from a gay-oriented group that not too long ago had suffered the same oppression that rape survivors today are suffering: to keep it to your self.  The Military Rape Crisis Center a nationwide advocacy and support group for Military Sexual Assault survivors estimates that 92% of all that report a sex crime in the Coast Guard are kicked out of service. Rape has become the new DADT.

While we have rightfully earned our rights to celebrate our accomplishments for repealing DADT, the fight is not over. We have to continue working on getting equality until all service members feel safe to open up to who they truly are. Sadly, homophobia is still very present in the United States Coast Guard and these Coast Guard members are at times using sexual violence as their weapon of choice to promote their hateful agenda. While the United States Coast Guard is not required like the four other branches of service to release their sexual assault data, the Military Rape Crisis Center reports that a disproportion numbers of Coast Guard Active Duty and Reserve members are seeking services through them. Some of these survivors are members of the LGB community that feel that their sexual orientation were the reason they have been victimized or that the investigation focus was primarily on their sexual orientation and not the felony that took place.

I am a survivor of sexual assault while serving in the United States Armed Forces. My rapist, an O-6, knew that he was able to get away with raping me because I am a lesbian. He was right. He was never prosecuted despite enough forensic evidence that shows a rape has been committed. Corrective rape in his eyes was the right thing to do for his God. He saw nothing wrong with what he did. He is still serving. I lost my very promising career.

As a member of several Active Duty, Veterans and civilians group for the LGBTQIA community, Open Guard USCG is the only group that I am aware of that is not actively working to eliminate sexual violence within members of this community. While I do believe that Open Guard USCG or a similar organization might be viewed as helpful to connect LGB members service wide Open Guard USCG’s blatant backwardness, hypocrisy and systemic silent the victim rape culture is something that cannot be overlooked. I welcome an open dialogue on this important issue.

Until Open Guard USCG is open to diversity and is inclusive of all members of the United States Coast Guard, including those that been victims of sexual assault or rape, I recommend that members of the United States Coast Guard think twice before associating themselves with Open Guard and it board members. I also request the leadership within the United States Coast Guard stop the Coast Guard’s affiliation with the group, including listing them as a resource on diversity page, until Open Guard is open to discuss the sexual assault and rape epidemic in the United States Coast Guard and how it affects members of the LGB community.

Open Guard’s mission statements states: “Open Guard is a Coast Guard centric support group for gay, lesbian and bisexual Coast Guard members, active duty and retired, and their families and friends” and I believe that this should include those that feel that they have been retaliated by use of sexual violence for coming out.

Resources for military rape survivors:

Military Rape Crisis Center


Protect our Defenders

My Duty to Speak

Reported a Rape, discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell-United States Air Force

By Melissa, United States Air Force

I guess it is only fair that I start of with a description and background of myself. I am 5’1, weighed around 110 pounds at the time working as a medic in the Air Force. I grew up in a tiny town in New Hampshire. We did not have a lot of money, for most of my life I was raised by a single mother who had me when she was a teenager.  Up until recently it was just me and her. We were very, very close. We did not have much money for college and I enlisted in the Air Force in 2003 at the age of 18 during the summer after high school mainly to pay for college. Since 10th grade I was openly Gay and everyone was always cool with it from my friends from New Hampshire to my comrades in the Air Force. Even during the period of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell nobody that I was working with directly cared, I was very well liked and my work was superb so they never made a big deal about it. The folks that I was serving with were at first some of the greatest people ever, aside from just comrades we were also best friends and hung out on liberty and even went on leave together. We had fun, perhaps a little too much fun. I had Christmas duty and we were all just goofing around listening to Christmas carols and playing stupid games cause after the morning rush the clinic was pretty much dead. We decided to let some leave early (against policy but we did it anyway) and since I was the only one that did not have any plans for Christmas, I was not going back to New Hampshire nor did I have any family in Colorado so I volunteered to stay in case anybody came in.

After they left a Colonel walked in as I was in the waiting area watching TV bored and asked where everyone was and I did not want to lie to him so I said that I was the only one on duty. I asked if there anything that I can help him with and he said “no, just came in to see how you are doing.” He kept me company and I was so bored that I was willing to talk to anyone. We talked about New Hampshire and his Air Force career and his daughters. The clinic was going to close at 1630 and it was around that time so I said that I am closing up. We said goodbye and I went to turn off the lights and to get my belongings from the back room. He came back, found me in an exam room as I was there closing up and pushed me on to the exam table and raped me.

Right after it happened I sent a text to my mother. She called me right away and told me to go to a civilian hospital. I was crying telling her that I wanted her to be here and she promised to be on the next flight to Colorado. I did as she suggested and went to the hospital and a rape kit was performed. I sent several text messages to my friends in Colorado and only two responded. One came to the hospital and then stayed with me the night because I was afraid to be left alone. We did call the SARC number and nobody responded (they were suppose to answer it 24/7) but we did leave a message. The next day my mother came and the SARC returned my phone call. I was assigned a Victim Advocate and AFOSI was contacted.

My next duty day I went to the clinic and by then everyone knew what happened. Those which whom I considered my friends did not return my text message saying that I was raped and when I went to the clinic they all ignored me. Only two people still spoke to me. After two weeks my mother left because she needed to go back home for work. I felt all alone. Everyone stayed as far away from me as they could just to not be associated with me. The women were the worse, with some women who I once considered friends betrayed me worse than even the men. They spread nasty rumors about me, calling me a slut and that I “slept with every man in the Air Force, all 330,000+ of them!” when in reality I am a lesbian that never been (consensually) with a man. They even said that I had sex with my male friend the night that I was raped cause he stayed with me and when I tried to explain that we did not have sex and he only stayed with me cause I felt unsafe they said that I am lying and a slut. BTW he was also Gay but I could not say that cause he was only out to me because he knew that I’ll understand and he was very career-oriented and did not want anything to ruin his career in the Air Force.

After a year and a half AFOSI came back and said that yes, they found evidence on the rape kit that there was sexual intercourse HOWEVER after interviewing the Colonel they concluded that the sex was consensual. I flipped out, why would I a lesbian in her early 20s consent to have sex with a male who is more than twice her age-and not to mention an entire foot taller than me and weighed more than twice my weight. The Colonel was clearly against the weight requirements to stay in but cause of his rank he was still around and here I was 5’1, 110 pounds why would I consent to sex with him? That basically what I told them. Within two weeks I was being discharged for violation for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Nothing happened to the Colonel. Even if it was consensual as they said that it was, the Colonel was married so charge him for adultery. I was a lower ranking enlisted personnel, charge him with fraternization. Fucking charge him with something. They had no problem discharging me for homosexuality but the heterosexual sex in their opinion was still consensual. He is still in.

I do not think that I ever officially thanked my mother for being there for me. She made numerous trips to Colorado on every time she could get off from work. It was very difficult for her financially as well as emotionally as it often is for family members having to watch their loved ones go through this. I love you mom.Military Sexual Trauma is not just something that an individual is dealing with but the entire family is also suffering through the pain. When you see the woman in your unit who is being revictimized for being raped remember she has a family somewhere who is worried about her and praying that she does not end up being like one of the many women who were found murdered by our military men; Lavena Johnson, Maria Lauterbach, Tina Priest, Keisha Morgan just to name a few.

Right now I work full time with Military Sexual Trauma survivors and going to school on the GI Bill to be a psychologist. I sometime flirt with the idea of re-enlisting since DADT has been repealed because even after all that happened I still LOVE the Air Force. They just need a better way to deal with the sexual assaults and rape allegations.