My Duty to Speak

Rape Culture at the Coast Guard Academy

When Rear Admiral Sandra L. Stosz was questioned about the increase of sexual violence at the Coast Guard Academy she released the following statement:

“At a time when they’re exploring their identity, it’s somewhat natural to have people experiment with what it takes to attract a person of the opposite sex. If, one time, a guy or gal is clumsy or stupid and tries to touch someone and they’re repulsed, they learn. Someone who goes around and keeps trying many times, that’s a different kind of behavior than someone who is awkward and experimenting.”


Sexual assault is not being “clumsy” or “stupid” but a violent crime –a felony with lifelong consequences for the survivor. Sexual Assault is sexual assault regardless if it happened once or if it happened repetitively over a period of time. The Coast Guard Academy should not tolerate Sexual Assault and the superintendent should stop making excuses for sex predators.

read more here.


My Duty to Speak

Navy attempts culture change on sexual assaults

“”They do say they want to change, but I feel a lot of it is lip service until we see a higher prosecution rate, until we see more rapists sent to prison for rape,” said Panayiota Bertzikis, executive director of the Military Rape Crisis Center. “The bottom line is a felony has been committed and they have to start treating it as a felony.”

read full article: ABC News



My Duty to Speak

Rape victims say military labels them ‘crazy’

CNN has interviewed women in all branches of the armed forces, including the Coast Guard, who tell stories that follow a similar pattern — a sexual assault, a command dismissive of the allegations and a psychiatric discharge.

read full article here.

Coast Guard, My Duty to Speak

Slut-shaming the US Military way.

By Panayiota Bertzikis

Hey y’all did you hear I am a  “psyco [sic] jizz gobbler” and a “slam pig” Of course you heard it-rape survivor and name calling they go hand in hand. Its okay. I know that if Mother Theresa (RIP MT) was ever raped she would probably have been called a slut. My colleague and best friend in the whole entire world-sisters not related by blood but I love this girl to death-Melissa was raped in the Air Force and then rumors flew like wild (no pun intended) that she had slept with THE ENTIRE AIR FORCE-ALL 350,000 of them! That must be some sort of world record. Wait in less than a year time did you say? God damm it Melissa you were one busy lady. Yes, she knows that I am writing about her as we are both on FB chat as I am writing this rolling our cyber eyes at how dumb the rape culture is. This is just what the rape shamers, rape apologists, rape excusers-whatever you want to call them-do to rape survivors. They  come in any any rank, age, ethnic group-it can be a man as much as it can be a woman. It can be anyone.  They call rape survivors psycho, tell us that we are at fault for what happened and of course call us sluts. It is called rape culture and slut shaming, more on that later. To the Coast Guardsman that  called me a jizz gobbler-no hard feelings I can not take seriously anyone that does not use real words.

The person who allegedly called me this was a Captain (he must have teenage kids at home or something.) For those not up to part with the teenage slangs of the minute (its okay at the age of 29 I already look at teenagers with the utterly confused WTH does that mean look. Wait I did that when I was 16 too-god I was always such a dork.)

Here are the definitions according to Urban Dictionary

Jizz gobbler: One who engages in the act or practice of ingesting semen in a rapid or enthusiastic manner.

Slam pig: a girl that is such a slut and has been fucked so many times, that most men realize she has some kind of venereal disease and decide not to go near her

Jizz Globbler and Slam pig seriously Captain? This makes absolutely zero fucking sense when it comes to describing a rape survivor.

Let just say that I really am a Jizz Gobbler (isn’t that the funniest fake word ever?) and let just say Melissa really did sleep with the entire Air Force willingly then why will we be raped? Did Melissa sleep with 349,999 airmen and then the 350,000th she cried rape? Can someone tell me how this work? We’ll be sluts (I know women should be able to sleep with how many people she wants without being labeled but follow me on this)  and go about our slutty ways and we’ll like it cause well that is just what a slut does and that’s fine if that is what you are into.  Bottom line:  YOU CAN NOT RAPE THE WILLING.

But  all jokes aside we have been raped as have one in three women who are serving in the United States Armed Forces. Yes I know you probably all know this but  this is for you Captain I called my shipmate a psyco jizz gobbler. The definition of rape under the Uniform Code of Justice is:

Article 120, Rape, sexual assault, and other sexual misconduct.


By using force: That the accused caused another person, who is of any age, to engage in a sexual act by using force against that other person.

By causing grievous bodily harm: That the accused caused another person, who is of any age, to engage in a sexual act by causing grievous bodily harm to any person.

By using threats or placing in fear: That the accused caused another person, who is of any age, to engage in a sexual act by threatening or placing that other person in fear that any person will be subjected to death, grievous bodily harm, or kidnapping.

By rendering another unconscious: That the accused caused another person, who is of any age, to engage in a sexual act by rendering that other person unconscious.

Yep some heavy stuff there. Not one word about sluts, sleeping around or jizz gobbling. The use of one’s force in a sexual manner to control and imply fear onto another person. Rape is done against the will of the victim. Again, if we willingly sleep with every man who remotely glance our way then it is impossible to be raped. Sluts says yes, rape victims say NO. My very good friend Jenny, an US Navy rape survivor and kick ass woman, said it the best: “ If we all wanted it, we would be back for more and not reporting rapes.” I agree with Jenny and you should to!

However we are living in a rape culture and in that all women who are having sex are sluts. Survivors are  slut-shamed  into thinking that they are at fault for being raped–for no other than because they are sluts! Every woman who I know who reported a rape was slut-shamed, even women who were not raped are often slut-shamed. Basically if you are a woman living today you have been called a slut at some point in your life. She had sex (consensual) with someone and she is called a slut. Even if you are a virgin you are a slut! I heard the media calling 5 years old girls slutty–five years old girls? What message is that sending them and all who heard?.  If you say yes to sex you are called a slut or if you say no you are called a slut. Either way women who are having sex or not having sex are being called sluts. This is called slut-shaming.

Slut Shaming is attacking women for their sex lives. For rape survivors it goes even further in that it attack survivors of sexual assault and rape by shaming her and making everyone-including the survivor to think that she “asked to be raped” . I have worked with over 6500 military sexual assault and rape survivors and from my professional humble opinion I do not think any one of my clients ever asked to be raped. Again if we asked to have sex it is consensual and therefore not rape.

Slut shaming comes in so many different forms. If you are a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma you’ll probably could relate to any one or more of the following examples of Slut-Shaming:

Straight out being called a Slut: Can’t get anymore simple. Calling a rape survivor a slut because well you know only sluts get raped. They may say it to our face but more often they don’t have the courage to do so they’ll go around our back, tell the entire crew, maybe post it on-line and use cutesy made up fake words like Jizz Gobbler. It does not matter what the survivor’ sexual history is-if she was a virgin at time of rape or if she slept with 80 men-it does not matter. According to rape-shamers if you been raped you are a jizz gobbler slam pig and that’s that.

Morning After Remorse: This often, but not always, goes along with drinking. You went out with some guys in which you just spent over a year with in Afghanistan. You drank to being back home in the USA and after 2 drinks you start to feeling a bit light-headed. You not sure what is happening cause normally it takes you more than 2 drinks to feel anything. Next thing you know you wake up and are half-naked. Any sane person can see that you were probably drugged. Your comrades and rape apologists though will cry “Morning After Remorse”. According to them you drank too much, you slept around and then went “oops I slept with the wrong man last night.”  What they fail to see is that us normal folks, you know none-rapists, when we are out with a buddy that may have drank too much we make sure that they are safe, we take away their car keys, drive them home and not use it as an opportunity to have sex with them as they are passed out in their own vomit. Rapist though use it as their chance to have sex without your consent (you can not consent if you drank too much–or been drugged). NO CLEAR YES=RAPE.

Imaginary curfew: I understand that some military installations do have curfews for all and if you out beyond curfew time and you get raped it is still not your fault. At one point the military had “women only curfews” in that a woman can not leave her barrack room after a certain hour without a male escort. When they came to realize that over 80% of women are raped by somebody that they know so a woman has a higher chance of being raped by the male escort than by a complete stranger walking alone they scratched that idea. Today though most posts do not have any curfews. As long as you performing your duties and following all regulations you can pretty much come and go as you please. If you on liberty and want to make a milk run to the 24-hours grocery story at 2am you most likely could. Unless of course you been raped. Rape apologists will argue that you are putting yourself in a dangerous situation by being out when it is dark. If you are out later than when your grandmother goes to bed you are a SLUT just begging, wanting to be raped. They are more concern on why you were out and about at 2am than the fact that you been raped.

You consent once, you consent always. So you been dating a guy or you thought some guy was cute and was making out with him at the bar or you are married or you been with a guy but you no longer together or you totally crushing on a guy and everybody knows it and then he rapes you. Whatever sexual acts that you did prior to the rape does not make the rape any less of a rape. Rape excusers though would blame victim. You were seen at the bar making out with him-and then you went to his room. You were asking for it! Well not exactly,  just because someone was making out with someone does not mean that they consent to every single sexual act. You slept with him and been dating. Having sex once-or once a day with someone does not give consent to have sex every single time. You are married to him. When you take your vows you do not give up your right to consent. Stupid arguments from stupid rape-apologists trying to do nothing other than SLUT-SHAME a survivor.

Fashion Police: So you chose to enlist in the military, graduated with honors from basics and MOS school, and right before your first deployment you fall victim of a rape. Next thing you know you in a room talking about the “evil of miniskirts and tank tops” and its all going so fast that for a second you wondered how Joan Rivers got herself a Marine Corps uniform and an M16 until you realized that it was your NCO and he is talking about red mini skirts and low-cut tanks. Why is he talking about  fashion when you guys are deploying in 10 days? Two words: SLUT SHAMING. What we were wearing when we got raped, whatever that outfit was, is the reason we were raped or so they try to make us and everyone else believe.  If we were in a red mini skirt(totally slutty), jeans and a tee-shirt (slutty but depending on how tight our jeans are we may be playing hard to get but still slutty) or our BDUs (well it looks slutty on us cause you know we have boobs and all). By blaming the victim and slut-shaming into making everyone including the survivor feel that she is at fault for what happened then how could they punish the rapist? It was the sweatpants and t-shirt that made him do it! Just to let you know whatever a rape survivor wears is going to be viewed as slutty. We can never win.

There is a movement called Slut Walk. It all started last winter in Toronto  when a police officer told an audience of college students at York University that in order to not be raped women should “stop dressing like slut”. Were people pissed! We are living in a culture that tells women to not get raped, instead of men to not rape. They took it to the streets, there have been Slutwalks in DC, Dubai, London, literally everywhere and on these walks women and men can dress up however slutty that they desire-some wore miniskirts and high heels, others in Burkas. Melissa and I attended a Slutwalk wearing our military uniforms. The message is ‘My outfit does not consent to you raping me’. Women get raped regardless if they are wearing a burka, a red mini skirt or the uniform of the US Coast Guard. For those in the Phoenix, AZ area I’ll be a speaker at the Phoenix Slutwalk talking about slut-shaming in the Coast Guard. Holler back if you interested in attending.

The military likes to control it people. They tell us what to wear, when to eat, where to live, when we can leave the military regardless of what our contract says-so if they can breach our military enlistment contract and get away with it why can’t they tell men and women that it is not okay to tell a victim of rape that she is…a crazy, lying or a slut? The slut-shaming is starting from the top (Remember Captain I called my shipmate a psyco jizz gobbler?) and making it way down the ranks.

I want to give you some solution to make slut-shaming go away but it is so ingrained in the military  institution as well as non-military rape culture that it is going beyond just a few bad apples.

As I said we live in a culture that slut-shame women for their every move. What can you do to help eliminate the rape culture and slut-shaming. Here are some ideas:

1. Don’t tell rape jokes or sexist jokes. Tell others why they are not funny! Need help? Go here.

2. Don’t blame women for rape. We are not raped because we are out at 2am, went out for beers with the guys or because our uniform looks “sexy” on us. The person who is to blame is the RAPIST!

3. Don’t call someone a slut or use fake words that mean slut! Women can sleep with whoever she wants (as long as it is consensual for all parties involved) without being called names. Whoever you sleep with just make sure that it is safe sex!

4. Reach out to rape survivors on post. Telling them that they you believe them and that they are not fault is the most wonderful thing to hear for someone who has to deal with rape-apologists every single day.

5. Support rape survivors. Support people who support rape survivors. Volunteer at the Military Rape Crisis Center or a rape crisis center in your community or volunteer to be a Victim Advocate!

My Duty to Speak

Coast Guard petty officer murdered, blamed

In 2008 a woman in the Coast Guard was murdered by a civilian. The police said that it was a random act of violence and caught the man that did it. Those who served with her in the Coast Guard were determined to prove that the woman was at fault for what happened.

She had a reputation in the Coast Guard as being a party girl and “sleeping around” so when news first came out that she was murdered after a night of drinking everyone concluded that she must have “met the man at the bar, brought him home where he murdered her” and they continued to say that it was her fault for doing something so stupid. They said if only she learned to close her legs that she probably would have still been alive. They said that she was a whore that only got what was inevitable.

The civilian police said that she was followed home and murdered. That they believe that she had no prior communication with that man. We were watching the news on the mess deck and one petty officer went on top of his chair as we were all eating and said something like: “That bitch deserved it. Whores get what they deserve.”

Here we have a woman who was murdered and they all found it to be a joke.

When I came to the defense of the woman then my sexuality came into question. They felt that since I defended her that I must have slept with her, mind you that I am a female, and that they are not surprised because she is “freaky like that.” I told them that I did not sleep with her. Some of the men at the station probably slept with all the women in the city. Every day off they go to the bar, use their Coast Guard status and try to get laid-we were in Texas so it worked well there. When I tried to compare what that woman may or may not have done to what they are doing and to stop with the double standards they  called me a feminazi and told to ignore me.

In front of the media and to their family they were like totally different people. One person wrote on her facebook memorial wall what a wonderful person that she was and be missed and then shut off the computer and said the usual “that whore got what she deserved.”

Nobody deserves to be murdered even if they brought a man home from the bar.

If these men were willing to do and say this to a woman who was brutally murdered for no fault of her own (as if being murdered is ever the victim’s fault) then what do you think that they would say to a woman who survived a rape?

Stop blaming the victim.

My Duty to Speak

Coast Guard visits veteran at her new job; further abuses her.

While in service one woman in particular, YN1 Kori Heath, was one of the leaders of the abuse. On a daily basis I had to hear from her what a good for nothing non-rate that I am.  She’ll scream at me and be angry because according to her I have lied about the rape and that I am an evil human being. She did this to many women who were of lower rank than her.  Heath was also my victim advocate until they said that she was not the best or most sensitive person for the job and gave the position to someone almost as bad but with more rank.

After I was discharged from the United States Coast Guard for reporting a rape I got myself a civilian seasonal job with another governmental agency. At that job we have an event space that we rented out to agencies and organizations.

One day  I was at work and found out that the Coast Guard rented out that space. I was doing my job and it was time for lunch. Before I went outside for lunch I went down the hall to the restroom as the event was coming to an end.   I used the restroom, then walked down the stairs. The layout of this space was that we had one grand staircase with each floor overlooking the staircase. It is a historic building so think of something very grand and beautiful.

The Coast Guard hired civilian police agents (think mall cops) and they said hello to me as I was leaving the building. I crossed the street to the opposite direction of where I was to buy lunch to use the ATM to get some money to buy my lunch. I crossed my tracks back towards the building which is in the direction of the restaurant. The mall cop who just said hello to me called me to go towards him so I did and he said “a Petty Officer Kori Heath said that you were threatening her” I said that “I did not say anything to her” and he said “well I am telling ****” Who is my supervisor’s, supervisor, supervisor, basically the Boss of everybody.

I felt that I should tell my boss what happened before he hears it from somebody else. So instead of lunch I went to the other building (we had two buildings, the offices and the event space) and told my supervisor.

At first my supervisor, unaware of the rape, my horrible treatment in the Coast Guard, etc. and who is a hardcore Vietnam-era veteran was telling me “well, why would she lie?” I was trying to explain to him how horribly that I was treated but at the same time I did not want to tell my boss that I was raped.  He got angry at me at first and told me to go home. I went home.

Next day I went back to work and he called me back into his office and him and his supervisor was there and wanted me to tell them both what happened with YN1 Kori Heath so I said. “I went on my lunch break, stopped at the restroom before I went to get my lunch. I did not talk to anybody. I basically was running down the stairs not wanting anyone to see me. I was in uniform so it no mistake that I belong there in the first place.  I did not talk to anybody nor did I made any threats.”

My supervisor and his supervisor said that they believe me. It turns out that after I left the day before, they spoken to my colleague who was there and confirmed that I was no less than 20 feet away from anyone in the Coast Guard at all times so it not even possible for me to have said anything. The surveillance tapes also shows that I never confronted Kori Heath nor anyone in the Coast Guard. As a matter of fact the tape shows that Kori Heath was up in the balcony area with the Honor Guard team, looked down, saw me and ran out and told the rent-a-cop. The statement given from the officer  on what  YN1 Kori Heath told him did not match the description of the surveillance tape and the witness. In other words Yeoman Kori Heath was caught in a lie. My supervisor felt that it was in retaliation for reporting a rape and said that I handled the entire situation very maturely.

With my colleague as a witness, the tape and the statement we went and filed an official report against Kori Heath in case she ever tried to pull the same trick again.I chose not to press any charges against her. Even after what she did she is still my shipmate. You don’t do that to a shipmate. Of course if she pulls the same trick again I would press charges.

The remaining few months that I was working there was extremely awkward since everyone knew about the rape. My supervisor was trying to be supportive but I knew he did not know what to do. He said “you can take as much time off as you need to go to appointments” and I knew it was strange for him too. My supervisor was an awesome guy but I felt that he was treating me, with the best intentions, with kids gloves. I did not want that.

After the season ended I was one of the few who were invited to work under contract for a longer term. If it was not for the incident with YN1 Kori Heath I probably would have accepted it, but being so fresh out of the Coast Guard the last thing that I wanted was to be known as the rape survivor. I wanted a job where I can just be known for me and my work performance and not the woman who was raped in the Coast Guard.

Kori Heath eventually was severely punished for unrelated reasons regarding some fraud and unethical behavior on how she handled Honor Guard duties. I ended up backpacking Europe for a while and while there I faxed my resume and landed a job back in the US while still on vacation.

Everything did work out for me  but the main reason that I am writing this post is to show you how people are treating rape survivors in the Coast Guard in such an unethical and inhumane way even after they left the service! Heath’s behavior eventually caught up to her but this never should have happened in the first place.

The rape victim is never at fault for the rape but some members of the Coast Guard would go to great length to cover up the assault for “the reputation of the Coast Guard” that in the end the only ones that they are hurting are themselves when the truth come out.

We now have a voice through this blog to share our stories to help us heal and to help prevent what happened to us to happen to others. I hope that the Coast Guard reads this and prevent others from being abused in this way by Kori Heath or anybody else.

My shipmates and I deserve better.

Coast Guard, My Duty to Speak


It all started when a local newspaper published my rape story. I was called into James Freeman office to be told by James Freeman, Lt. Patricia Tutalo, Lt. Thomas Gwilliam and Commander Joseph Segalla to no longer speak to others about my rape. They were angry that I, an E-3 took it upon herself to inform the public that I was raped and that my command did absolutely NOTHING TO HELP ME. They were concern not about their lack of response to help a shipmate that was raped, they were concern not about the threats that I was receiving from my own shipmates but instead they were concern on how this would this look like for the Coast Guard reputation.  The next day I was handed a DD-214 and knew that I was given the liberty to speak.

The next few years I had the opportunity to share my story with members of the Congress, on national television and in several books including one that been taught in college history classes nationwide. I shared my story while on stage before 20,000 people and shared my story one-on-one with the new XO of the very unit that I reported my rape, in the very room. Each and every time I get to share my story I become stronger and know I am no longer that E-3 rape victim but a woman that survived something horrendous and lived to speak about it.

As I share my command’s response to my rape allegations, the civilian public jaws drop. How can a woman, in this day and age be treated so horrific and straight out backwards just cause she was raped? I have to remind them that what I went through while serving my country is nothing unique. It is happening to as many as one in three women in the military as well as many men. In the year 2011 right here in the United States of America rape survivors are still not being believed, being blamed for, losing their careers and at times murdered for reporting a sexual assault.

I know the pain of betrayal far exceed the physical pain of the assault itself. I know how it feels like to be treated like a criminal just for being a victim. I know how it feels like to lose your career while watching your perpetrator go unpunished. I know how it feels like to walk on base and hear “whore” or “liar” be thrown your way. I know that what I went through in 2006 has been going on for decades and it is still goes on today. I know that I do not want any more of my comrades, my vet-sisters, my shipmates to go through what I went through which is why I am sharing my story.

I am  inviting you all to do so as well. If you are a survivor, a family member, or a service member that witnessed abuse please share your story. Together, with the public knowledge of what is really happening in our military we can put an end to the truculent treatment of Military Sexual Trauma survivors.

To share your story visit: Be Heard


Coast Guard Station Burlington VT and Coast Guard Boston