But it will always be the first that hurt me the most.
I was out with friends. Admittedly very drunk. We were having fun. The guys with us were both engaged. They were safe. We were all officers. We know better. We treat each other better.
I lay in the bed, he crawls in next to me and starts to touch me. I move him away. He becomes more aggressive. I’m too drunk to move, but I remember it all clearly. He pulls my pants off and starts touching me more. I push his head back. He comes back in. He holds me down and says, “I’ve wanted this since we met.” I keep asking him, “What about Emily [his fiancee]?” He thrusts as he holds my legs up, when I try to move away and back, he keeps my legs up on his shoulders and holds my shoulders down. He’s so strong and heavy on my limp body. I turn my head to the left, where our other drunk friend is sleeping on the other bed- hard. I can’t make a sound. I’m so embarrassed. I don’t want anyone to know, but I can’t believe all of my training and I’m letting it happen to me. He stays asleep as Jim is thrusting more, then pulls out to ejaculate- “I can’t have a baby with you, but you are so much fun. God, you’re sexy.” He falls to the right, almost immediately to sleep.
I lay there. What just happened? Why did I let him do this to me? Why didn’t I wake up Matt? Why couldn’t I move, make a noise?
I sit up, put my clothes back on, still a little drunk. I have to get to my car. Shit, I drove them here last night… how will they make it back to base? Taxi, they can take the taxi. They are officers. They can figure it out.
I stumble out of the hotel, Matt wakes up to see me leave hastily, asks if I’m okay, I reply, “Of course, just getting breakfast.”
What was I thinking? Why didn’t I just tell him what happened?! Why didn’t I say, “Your friend just raped me. I’m leaving.”
I have to work with Jim and Matt for another 4 months during this training cycle. Jim receives word that he is going to become a Combat Engineer Officer. I find out I’m going to an engineer unit. I pray to God he doesn’t go, too. Thankfully he doesn’t receive the same information.
I’m NEVER drinking that much again (I did).
The night before graduation, I was force fed alcohol and was drugged. I found solace in a room of who I thought was also my friend. He became vulnerable with me about how he isn’t sure that he’ll be a good Marine Officer. I empathize with him and we talk. He becomes handsy. He pushes me on his bed, next to the desk we were sitting at. It happens again. His strength holds me down. “I’m not allowed to have sex in the barracks”, I think to myself, “I’ll get in trouble if I yell out”, I think again. I let it happen. I just laid there. He enjoys himself. I just laid there. Will was drunk and asleep in the bed in the same room. I couldn’t cry out. I couldn’t. Simon falls asleep on top of me, half way. He didn’t even ejaculate. “Good, you don’t deserve it”, I think. I struggle to get him off of me without waking him. I put myself together and fall into the hallway, where no one noticed me. I walk outside for some air. I was met with Jim, who approached me asking if he raped me. “Did I rape you? Tell me please.. I can’t live with myself. Emily and I aren’t doing so well” I told him to leave me alone and tried to get back inside. He grabbed my wrist, someone else walked up and asked if everything was okay. I said I was just about to go inside. Across from my room, my commander was drunk, hitting on my roommate, and telling “war stories”. I slipped into my room and fell into my bed, wishing to be gone.
4 years later, I am overwhelmed with fear that Jim was going to attend the course that I now instructed and facilitated. I ask the unit victim advocate what I should do- he said to talk to the Chaplain. The Chaplain listened to me and comforted me while I relived the trauma I never really healed from but rather just pressed down into my soul. He said, “What would you tell one of your Marines to do in this situation?” “Well, I would hope that she would report it. Injustice should be trusted to the system. The system is there to take care of her. I would be there to take care of her.” “It sounds like you answered your question.” I go to my commander and explain what happened, 4 years ago, and not under his command. I am cold in my delivery, logical, less emotional, guarded. I told him if Jim comes to this course, I would have to request a month of leave as I wouldn’t feel safe coming to work knowing he was around.
Heading to NCIS, alone, I report all three (the third I didn’t tell you about) cases of sexual assault. They have me come in the next week to directly contact Jim and Simon. I call them through their system to prevent them from knowing my current phone number.
I talk to Simon first. He is nearly out of the Marine Corps- he finally caught his senses, but just started with a new job in San Francisco. We catch up, then I tell him that my therapist thought it was a good idea that I contact him to tell him directly that he raped me and that it has traumatized me since. The call goes silent. He asks if I am sure, that he thought it was consensual. I confirmed it was not. He apologizes and didn’t realize that it was what it was. That he never meant to hurt me. I lose any idea of what to say… how do you end a conversation like this? I find a way to do so, we hang up. NCIS contacts his new employer to note that he is now under investigation. No evidence was found, though, just my story. I thought that was okay. I didn’t need “justice” in the American way- lock him up… for what? I wanted him to apologize. I received that. It felt good.
I call Jim next. We catch up. He sounds happy, but tells me his wife, Emily, has recently discussed divorce with him. He has been very depressed and has considered leaving the Marine Corps, but it is all he has at this point that is consistent. I feel bad. “Why do I feel bad?” I think to myself. He’s driving home from work. I tell him the same thing I told Simon- direct, “You raped me.” The call goes silent. He shouts expletives. He is aghast. I try to keep talking. I become uncomfortable. The NCIS Agent tries to help me with what to say next. He’s not allowed to coach me, though, so I try to avoid saying what he wants me to say. I try to be empathetic to Jim. He is starting to cry. I ask him to pull over, he says he does. He’s sitting on the side of the highway in North Carolina, talking on the phone with someone who just told him he raped her 4 years ago. He’s broken. He asks me what he should do, he apologizes profusely, he admits that he didn’t think I wanted to sleep with him that night but that he just wanted to so badly. He asks me if he should tell his wife, I don’t have an answer for him. I find a way to close the conversation. I ask the Agent if he can contact Jim’s command so they know where he is and what he is dealing with. “Why do I care?” I ask myself again.
That was that. I almost went to Court-Martial for Jim’s case. They didn’t have a lot of evidence and I had since moved onto a new command- one of the first women to be in an Infantry Regiment. I couldn’t ask for time off to go to a court-martial for a sexual assault that happened now 5 years ago. I felt terrible about my decision to report it all. I ruined Jim’s career. He was held back for promotion, removed from his position, and there was a protection order against him for me. After they (and I) chose to drop charges, it took him another year to promote (three years behind now at this point). According to his records, he gained a lot of weight and did not do so well. He wasn’t selected for promotion with my class to Major. He probably has a separation date. I was selected for promotion and an interview for a position at the White House. I didn’t get the position, and I wonder to this day if it is because I had three active NCIS investigations open at the same time. They all say the same thing, “Use of alcohol was involved” “victim was incapacitated due to alcohol use”. Did this report now also indirectly hurt my ability to have these higher positions? I’ll never know because they’ll never tell me. I’m still treated with respect, even after I talked to my new commander, an infantry officer, about it all. I felt so vulnerable during the investigations. I was questioned about my actions and why I didn’t call out. As logical as I am, I didn’t have an answer for it. My vocal chords didn’t work. They were as afraid as I was- of embarrassment, of retaliation, of the system.
The first one hurts me the most. The other two just happened, but the first one hurt the most. I broke him. I broke his marriage, his career, his life. Now, 5 years removed from the report itself, 9 from the incident… I am re-traumatized sometimes but not as often as before. If anything, I am still working through how the reporting affected him. And I guess I’m just not sure why I am still hung up on that. He took my sexual freedom from me. Whenever my husband lifts my legs, I have to intentionally push memories from my mind. At least I don’t immediately start crying anymore.
I decided to post this because some military victims don’t want to trust the system. As a legal officer, I trust the system, but the individuals can be something else to consider. We aren’t perfect, but I was lucky to have two commanders at two different commands who did not judge me further for this happening to me.
Now, as I consider also resigning from the Marine Corps for other individual issues, it saddens me to see that so many others who go through this aren’t treated as fairly as I was. It hurts my heart so deeply. It also hurts me, though, that our suspects aren’t treated like human anymore. Even when someone is guilty of an event like sexual assault, they are still humans who deserve to be treated with dignity. My heart might be too big for this world some days, but part of the healing process for me is accepting that Jim and Simon are not perfect, that though they both hurt me, they will live with this as I will live with it.
Thank you for reading my story. It is not the first time I’ve told it, but it is the first time I’ve written it down in a public manner.
I hope every story teller here finds their Shiloh, their resting place.