Rebuilding life after military sexual trauma *trigger warning*
Growing up, I endured a lot of abuse from my family. My father was abusive, emotionally and mentally, and would beat me so bad sometimes he left marks, bruises, or scars. He was controlling in every aspect. My mother was quiet, but took his side and never stood up for me. To this day she cannot acknowledge her part and blames the problems that will follow on me. I had two older siblings, as well. My sister was 7 years older than me and molested me when I was 11 or 12. My brother walked in on it once and never said anything. He also blames me for the things that follow, and has said some very hateful and hurtful things to me.
When I graduated High School, it’s no surprise that I went away for college. Unfortunately, my father found a way to still control me from a distance. I rebelled and got a couple of tattoos and he cut me off and all communication with me. I was sexually assaulted my Sophomore year and it affected me more than I realized at the time. I lost all motivation and energy and I rarely attended class. One semester I had a .78 GPA and flunked most of my classes that year. I had a 3.33 the year before. I decided that college wasn’t for me and I wanted to join the military. I knew that I had to provide for myself and I didn’t want some stupid job making minimum wage.
I knew about the benefits of joining and eventually joined the military, after almost a year of waiting and 3 waivers later. I was boasting with pride at my accomplishments and while I was excited and ready to join, I ended up loving it far more than I thought possible. For the first time in my life I felt proud, I had many friends, I was good at my job, and my life seemed to finally be falling into place. Then one night I met a friend of mine’s male friend. He immediately showed interest in me and slowly I thought we became friends and we hung out a couple of times outside of his usual friend group. However, I feel like I should’ve noticed the signs because he made sexual comments that I awkwardly laughed away.
One night he asked to come over to my dorm room, and I let him. My job had 12 hour shifts that changed constantly and led to insomnia so I was taking medication to go to sleep. I told him I had taken it and he said that’s fine, he would only stay a little. We talked and I watched as he played video games until I feel asleep. Then in the middle of the night I awoke to find him inside of me. He was raping me and I was terrified. I froze and just cried.
When it was over, I got up and went into the bathroom and immediately got in the shower. It was early in the morning and I spent what seems like hours standing under the scolding hot water trying to burn off his touch and wash away the parts of him that were now parts of me. I was hoping he would leave while I was in there, but he didn’t. I came out and he was in his uniform staring at me. I grabbed clothes and changed in the bathroom, neither of us saying a word, and then he left to go to work.
Later that day I went to work, and after a few days I had unraveled so much that I had frequently cried on shift. I went to talk to the base chaplain, who convinced me to report the incident and I decided to make a restricted report, which allowed me to get help without the start of an investigation. However, I continued to unravel. I helped a drunk friend one night and he too tried to assault me. That triggered me so much that that night I drank myself into a coma and was found unconscious in my dorm room. I was rushed to the hospital where I spend some time recovering. I was then forced to go to mental health, where they slapped diagnosis’ on me and prescribed meds.
I continued to drink as I went through an IOP program that would hopefully help and I was made to check in twice a day with my command. One night I got drunk again and missed a check in. My command showed up at my door and I was so gone I couldn’t talk or walk. The next day I was sent to an inpatient trauma program where I spent 7 weeks. While I was there, I gained the courage to go unrestricted, found a great military lawyer, and filed, which opened up an investigation. As soon as I was discharged, I was questioned and interrogated about every detail. Soon after, I expedited out of that base, a way for victims to get away from who hurt them. I spent the next year going through trials and trips back to my previous base for them. During one of them, I panicked so bad I went blind for half an hour. I was told by the base commander that my story deserved to be heard, and then found out they dismissed it. I was devastated. The man who raped me admitted that I was asleep and that I was “laying there like a dead fish”, but still the military justice system let him go.
Over the course of that year, I spent a lot of time bouncing in and out of treatment facilities and tried to kill myself at least twice (my memories fuzzy through some of this). I just couldn’t handle the pain. I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression, and subsequently kicked out of the military for these problems. I was put out by the one thing I ever really wanted because of what he did to me, and he got to stay in.
It’s been almost 2 years since I got out of the military and the pain is still fresh. My family did nothing, they let me go through all of this, including a trial, alone. They blamed me, and said I shouldn’t have let him in. I probably did something that made him think I wanted it. I did not. I was clothed and I passed out because of medication and exhaustion. I now see a therapist twice a week, a psychiatrist once every month and a half, and have had 4 jobs in a year and a half. I went from 2 tattoos to 15, all of which have meaning, most of which pertain to that trauma.
I finally found a job I like and is a good fit for me and I find out they’re closing in 6 months. I struggle daily and sometimes wish one of those suicide attempts would’ve worked because I’m just so tired of being tired and in pain. I’ve lost every friend I’d ever made, either due to their words, actions, distance, etc. I’m scared of starting over and I’m so depressed most of the time but can’t seem to bring myself to be honest with my therapist. I continue to push through, I work a full time job and go to school full time.
I’m by no means where I want to be, and to be quite honest I’m not really happy. But for some reason, I’m still here. And because of that, I advocate for sexual assault and suicide prevention. I’ve been there, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. That’s why I love Only Humans shirts. They mean a lot to me, help remind me what I’ve overcome, and let others know I’m here for them if they need someone.
Story submitted by an incredibly brave human.
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