Thursday, September 30, 2010


A big part of my job in the military dealt with secrets. In my personal life I held secrets close that I shouldn't have. I was raped twice. Both times I kept it secret until it was too late. The first was by someone I loved shortly after I was assigned to my unit. My husband. I waited six weeks, until he left town to report it. Then the DA decided they didn't have enough evidence to prosecute. I was a mess after I reported the rape. For two years, I could barely function. I almost got kicked out of the Army several times. Prior to the rape I had gone to my chain of command three times and told them I was afraid my husband was going to hurt me. I was told I was being overly sensitive, and to just get a divorce. I was weak afterwords, I didn't care if I lived or died. I didn't sleep or eat for weeks at a time. I had trouble remembering things, which is why I was always in trouble. No punishment they could dream up could get through to me, and punishment was all they understood.

A short time later I was assigned a roommate. She was raped by our acting platoon sergeant. All of the junior enlisted, including me, banded together to provide evidence against him. Everyone had had incidents with him at some point or another. He regularly referred to every female in the platoon in general as whores. My evidence perhaps was most damning. I was still weak but I felt that by helping this girl I could somehow vindicate my own experience. Because of this one of the platoon sergeants underlings came after me. He threatened me, intimidated me, and did everything he could to get me to retract my statement. I didn't care. I was weak, but remember I didn't give a damn what they did to me. I reported him less than an hour after he left. Incidentally the unit tried to get the girl who was raped up on charges of adultery because the platoon sergeant was married. Oh the joys of military law. She ended up being given a rehabilitative transfer to another unit.

The rest of my life was a blur, until Iraq. I got drunk, got in trouble. It was like falling asleep drunk and waking up in Iraq with no idea how you'd gotten there. Talk about a wake up call. I had a new team then, and for the first time I had a leader who stuck up for me. He told the rest of the chain of command who thought I was a waste of time to shove it. He punished me no less than any of the others, but it finally got through to me because for the first time I wanted his respect. It was the last time I trusted an NCO. He saw some of the harassment I suffered, and began the indoctrination of "We must get along with the infantry." I believed him, and because I wanted him to be proud of me, I suffered the rest in silence. When I was raped the second time, I didn't say a damn thing. Hell I didn't remember most of it. I was on some sort of medication at the time, which knocked me out cold. I remember waking up in the middle of it, and trying to say something before passing out again. The rest unfortunately I remember all to well. I remember waking up in the middle of the night with hands under my clothes and fighting them off as quietly as possible. I remember laying down exhausted on a seat in one of our trucks and drifting off to sleep for a moment when a hand grabbed my crotch. I remember pulling guard duty with other soldiers in the middle of the night, spending the entire guard shift trying to keep them off me. So many secrets I kept. I thought I was being strong. I was doing my job with all of this shit going on. People were dying literally on a daily basis, and I kept my head in my work, ignoring the rest. Toward the end I started falling apart. I couldn't handle being surrounded by enemies. I couldn't handle being betrayed by my team, by the one NCO I trusted. I thought I was losing my mind. My work was superior though. In that respect, I had succeeded. I did everything I could to keep those bastards alive.

Secrets. Humiliation. Shame. I hate secrets. I hate watching bad people get away with doing bad things to good people. All those secrets I kept could have ruined the careers of a lot of people. Maybe could have helped some other girl from suffering the same fate I did. I just wasn't strong enough to do it. All I could do was survive. Barely.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The aftermath

I hurt today. I woke up with a migraine. Yesterday's post tore me to pieces. I want to go back to sleep so bad it hurts, but I can't. I dreamed of gleeful violence last night, and I woke up angry all over again.
That sonofabitch doesn't ever want to run into me again, but I want to hurt him the way he hurt me. Writing these things down forces me to relive those experiences in HD with surround sound.
Guilt over my friend's death isn't a part of it though. For the most part, his death was a painful loss, and it makes me sad. I decided long ago that my first child will be named after him, as a sort of memorial. I will remember him forever because he was a wonderful person who served honorably and died doing his job.

I have so many memories similar to this one, that it will take me a long time to write about them all. Sometimes I just have to get some of it out. Especially when its pointed out that I'm hiding from these memories. I've never been the hiding sort.
The last time I spoke of some of these memories I spent three days in bed. I don't know how long I'll be miserable and want to hide in bed after this, but the theory is that eventually this will be a positive for me. Got to tear off the scabs so the wound can heal I guess.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Another betrayal of trust

I've mentioned before that being on a team in the Army is like being a part of a family, albeit a really dysfunctional family. I was on a team within a team. My team was distributed throughout an infantry battalion. We would be assigned to infantry companies for specific missions. The idea was that we would each be "adopted" by an infantry company on a more permanent basis. My presence as a female screwed that all to hell and back, because some of the leaders just didn't want to work with a female. Well eventually they were forced to, because I proved my worth time and time again, and there weren't enough people on my team to meet every company's needs. Throughout the course of the deployment I was shuffled throughout all the companies, usually due to a failure on the part of the companies to keep discipline amongst their soldiers. (Which is a roundabout way of saying that I was harassed, assaulted, or got in fights with soldiers over their behavior towards me.)
Toward the beginning of the end of the deployment, I was out on a mission with another of MY team mates. I was alone in a room with an English speaking Iraqi man, whom I was assigned to talk to. We were in a secured area and I was allowed to take off my Kevlar vest and helmet. (Also it tended to make discussions with Iraqi's more informal, which usually worked in my favor.) Well right away this guy started invading my personal space, which I ignored, because Iraqi's have an entirely different idea of personal space than your average American. Unfortunately in this case the guy took it to mean I was willing to do more than talk. When he first put his hands on me, I got up walked away and put my vest and helmet back on, hoping the jackass would get the message. He chose to ignore the hint. I tried other subtle ways to tell the guy to back off without insulting him, because my job was to make friends. At any rate my team mate was in another room having a round table discussion with several other Iraqi's and the company commander. So when I finally got upset enough I excused myself politely from the room and tagged in my team mate. The commander told me if I couldn't handle doing my job I could go sit in the truck, which I did, because it wasn't exactly a request.

When we got back to base, my team mate ( actually my boss, or one of them anyway) asked why I had left the meeting. When I explained what happened, he laughed and said "So what?". I told him I refused to be put in that situation with that man again and someone else could deal with him next time. In not very polite terms I was informed that I would do whatever was necessary to do my job. In even less polite terms I told him where to shove it. We ended up in a yelling match over the issue, with many threats made to discipline me for refusing an order.

I couldn't believe it. This guy, my team mate, a supposed part of my family, was ordering me to be sexually harassed and assaulted by an Iraqi. The Iraqi had put his hands on me, had tried to get in my clothes. I couldn't make my "boss" understand why this wasn't acceptable. It made me sick to my stomach. It still makes me sick to my stomach. I hate him. The day he was promoted, I spent a good hour puking my guts out. I'd even reported the incident to his "boss" another guy on my team, and he didn't do anything but rescind the order. Another betrayal. He wasn't punished for trying to subject me to a potentially dangerous situation? How could this be? I still don't understand it. They didn't really care about me or my welfare. When that little epiphany struck, I thought about all the other times I had been subjected to abuse by the infantry, and how I kept my head down and kept working without complaint. You see I had been indoctrinated about the necessity to work well with the infantry. Any problems with the working relationship came down on MY head, not theirs. By that time I had been raped, assaulted, and humiliated by several soldiers, while rumors about my supposed promiscuity and other insults were heaped on my head. My job was to save lives. I knew that. It was my first priority, always, even with all the bullshit going on. It was NOT an attempt at heroism. I suffered it quietly most of the time. It wasn't until my own team, my own family betrayed me, that I stopped caring. The entire rest of the deployment is literally a blur of blind rage. I fought with EVERYONE about ANYTHING. I argued with every order. I also had a humiliating tendency to burst into tears around my team. I lashed out at friends, commanders, anyone who dared to come close.

That was how one of my friends died with harsh words between us. He kept trying to hug me, to comfort me, and I didn't want to be touched. I yelled at him, until he finally walked away. Then he died. He was 19 years old.

I will never forget him, or forgive myself for forgetting how easily people died where we were. For not treasuring my friend, who tried to comfort me, who tried to stick up for me when no one else would. For not getting a chance to say goodbye.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Things that make me sad

I'm sad for the world. I don't know what it is in human nature that makes people hurt one another, maybe some random gene. I want to think that if society was simpler people would be happier. I remember my history classes well, however, and it seems we've been this way since our beginning.

I'm sad for myself. I'm sad that everything I see reminds me of the worst things I've seen and been subjected to. I'm sad that I'm not the only one who has the kinds of stories I do about things that happened to them.

I'm sad that I can't do anything to fix myself, much less the bigger picture. I do the best I can do to make it through the day, but most days that means hiding in bed sleeping or reading or staring at the ceiling. I take my pills I go to my doctors, and social workers, and nurse practitioners the VA have assigned to make me all better. I've finally convinced them that I know they are lying when the say "You'll be fine." I've also convinced them that saying things like "Just breathe" or "Just don't let it upset you" only reinforces my opinion on their lack of competence.

I'm sad for the system. It is an inorganic thing, which cannot adapt well enough to fix its own flaws.

I'm sad, I'm angry, and I'm terrified. I may only ever learn to "cope" with these problems I have, and never be the same again.