Military Men, Sexual Harassment, and the Incident That Changed Me

Thursday, March 12, 2015 by Meg   •   Filed under Mom Stories/Opinion

Previous posts have discussed the unique struggles that women in the military face (see more here in Fuck This Shit: Female Veterans, Trauma, Informed Consent and Working Towards Something Better). But when it comes to sexual assault, there is some gray area that we need to address, particularly in cases where women consent under duress. Just because we don’t — or can’t— fight doesn’t mean we are consenting. It doesn't mean you wanted it. And today I have one brave military woman here to share her story with you. 

By: Annonymous

I was 18 years old, fresh out of Basic Training for the United States Air Force.  I was assigned to the 99th Logistics Readiness Squadron and was a Vehicle Operator. The dorms were co-ed and 95% male. I was treated as “one of the guys” by most. 

But not by all.

Jarrod was married and I think had a kid or two. It all started while I was walking ahead of him up the stairs to our dorm when he said, “Nice ass, Boo.”  To be fair, I did have one of those sought-after butts. At 30 years old and one child later, I wish I had it back. That day, I just said, “Thank you,” and thought that would be the end of it.

I was wrong. 

Soon thereafter, I partnered with Jarrod on a run. I drove the first leg of the trip and I wasn’t uncomfortable until his hand reached over and stroked my thigh pretty close to the lady bits. I shoved his hand away and said, “Jarrod, I’m not interested.”  He looked defeated, like I had just kicked him.  A few minutes passed and I said, “I’m sorry I snapped, you just took me by surprise.”  I didn’t know what else to say and I still had to work with him. Looking back, I’m not sure that apology was actually what I meant.

Later, I reported this incident to my superiors. They said they would speak to him, but did not separate us or take any other steps to protect me. I never heard anything else from my superiors about the incident, so I assumed it had been taken care of. 

Wrong again. 

I never will know if it was retaliation that led him to my dorm a few weeks later, but there he was as I walked around the corner by my room. All the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. He  came really close to me as I struggled to unlock my door. He smelled of alcohol.  Coming from a family of alcoholics, I knew that there was no good way to reason with drunk folks. He started touching me. I resisted. His touches got harder and more persistent.  I said, “Hey, why don’t we go inside and talk.”  When we got inside, I told him I had to use the bathroom. Once there, I tried to escape through the side door into the next room, but they were all locked due to room inspections.

I didn't know what to do. Maybe I was making something out of nothing. 

When I went back into my room, he was sitting on my bed. “I want to fuck you,” he said. 

I said I didn’t think it was a good idea, that maybe we should wait until he was sober.  He shot up from the bed and pushed me down on it. I thought about the stories I heard on Law & Order; how those women were brutally raped or murdered if they fought. No one was around to help me, and there was no way I could fight him off on my own. The thought of having him strike me and take what he wanted anyway riddled me motionless. I knew that If I didn’t go with the flow, the events following would be much worse. 

I was afraid. I had little recourse. I was alone. So, I let him have sex with me and I pretended to enjoy it.

Looking back, twelve years later, I should have told someone. But it would have been a he-said, she-said case and there wasn’t any bruising. I’m still not sure anyone would have believed me, but I sometimes wish I had told anyway. 

I didn’t seek help immediately, but I acted out. A lot. I drank heavily, usually binge drinking. After having been with only one other person before Jarrod, I pursued and slept with around 35 men in two years. Maybe that incident turned me into who I became when it came to sex. Maybe I was filling some kind of void. Maybe I was seeking control. No matter what it was, I was completely emotionally disconnected from the sex. I didn't want to snuggle; I wanted to get my rocks off and for them to leave immediately.    

I did end up getting married and things cooled off.  In 2008, I divorced my husband, moved back to Wisconsin and signed up at our local VA Hospital. But even then, I still didn’t talk about what happened with my social worker. To this day I haven’t told my closest friends. And while I was able to score an appointment at the VA then, I might not be able to now. Today, the VA is struggling under the number of people coming back home with “real” issues: PTSD, TBI, lost limbs, etc.  No one has time for “almost” rape stories. I can’t even tell you whether I’d be able to get in if I was raped today.

Here is what I can tell you: if this happens to you, tell someone.  Even if you’re embarrassed. Even if you think it might be your fault. This incident still haunts me because I kept telling myself that I willingly participated. Even if you think there might be repercussions, even if that person gets away with it, TELL SOMEONE. It might save you from the things I ended up doing.

It’s not your fault. And you’re worth protecting. 

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Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body
Deep breathing and yoga poses designed to assist with healing through the body-mind connections common in PTSD.

I Can't Get Over It: A Handbook for Trauma Survivors
This book includes examples of numerous different types of trauma along with tactics to work through each.