When I walk the halls of the hospital as a bubbly HM3 and greet everyone, they can never see the demons I am fighting on the inside.
I walk with my head held high and with a beaming smile to hide the stress and pain but I always carry myself with pride.
I was raped 16 months ago and in February my case was sent to court martial for proceedings to begin.
Fear, guilty, anxiety, and sheer terror overcame my body at the thought of having to see him again.
Hearing the “NOT Guilty” verdict instantly felt like a dagger went straight to my heart and I fell apart on the floor
I cried with my lawyer and victim advocate asking them “Could I have done more?”
I wanted to scream and I wanted to cry
But the feelings on the inside encompassed of shame, regret, blame, and guilt made me want to die
When I got home later that night, I wanted to drink myself into a coma or just into a deep sleep
With thoughts swirling in my mind telling me “Why didn’t he just kill me the night he raped me?”
After being on the witness stand for 7 hours I began to questions myself and ask myself “Did I ask to be raped by this guy who was supposed to be my shipmate?”
I certainly believe his defense attorney thought so as she blamed me on the stand and all I could feel on the inside was a growing flame of hate
Asking a victim why they did not yell for help or punch, kick, and/or slap their rapist will not change what already happened that night
And through my tears all I could say was I used my hands to prevent him from penetrating me and that he disregarded me pleas for him to stop and chose to rape me not once, but twice; the guy I thought I knew disappeared from my sight
This aggressive person was going to do whatever it took to make me vulnerable so I would willingly consent to sex
But I had already made up my mind that evening and said “no” but he had a direct disregard for my boundaries when he came to kiss on my neck
When I was berated by the defense about my tampon and if there was difficulty being penetrated, I was emotionally starting to fall apart worse than when I started on the stand 3 hours ago
I felt like my mind was growing exhausted of having to retell this story especially about the tampon because I felt disgusted when he ripped my panties and pants down and penetrated me with my tampon still in and the cringe I got in my body feeling his semen run down my leg. I feel disgusted even now knowing what I know
I was accused of being a liar who wanted to get off sea duty and used a rape allegation to get that which wasn’t the case, that’s not what I wanted the jurors to think of me
I got angry and reminded them that I was given orders to leave once the MPO was in place, the judge put her in line and threw out the evidence of a meme posted by my HM1 6 months before the assault but my ego was tarnished into pieces
My rapist got sent there in his chair cool as cucumber watching me be shredded on the stands with no remorse in his eyes
As I sat there on the stand answering question after question and crying out “why?”
The blame game that defense attorney threw at me?
1. It’s your fault you got raped.
2. You didn’t do enough to the stop the rape.
3. You put yourself in the position to be raped.
4. You gave the defendant the impression that you wanted to
5. The defendant was surprised and didn’t know I was not
This is the kind of system that claims we have a rape problem in the military as a whole but instead blames the victims who got raped
Those demeaning words have been glued into my brain as if they won’t escape
Engrained in my brain are the burning images and words of my rapist telling me why didn’t I fight back harder or grab his penis to make him stop
Those images are forever recurrent in my nightmares and flashbacks, the pain that comes after surviving a rape is nonstop
What hurt me the most is watching my rapist walk away free to go back into the military
Meanwhile I’m picking up the remaining pieces of the life I once knew; knowing that there is a new beginning for me
Drinking until I blacked out was easier because I never hand to think about the trauma or be reminded that I am a rape victim still going through the legal process of wanting my rapist punished.
And sometimes I drink because I’m often reminded by smells and visuals of my rapist viciously raping me; and now I want to drink even more because the military justice system raped me just as worse leaving him out there unpunished
Everyday I wake up and tell myself that I am BEAUTIFUL, PROUD, STRONG, and BRAVE for speaking up and standing up for myself
No one can take those positive affirmations away from me and that I take it one step at a time as I move along
When will the rapes end? When will the military’s justice system stand up for rape victims and stop letting these monsters back out?
Going through the pain and suffering I did for 16 months made me realize why most rape victims never come forward like the military wants them to
Is it worth waiting years for justice only to be ripped apart for your story not being consistent as it was when you initially met with the investigators; I wouldn’t blame them for that fear, would you?
My rapist M.O. does not get to win because although I did NOT get justice and lost this battle, I have not lost the war
I won now that I am NO longer silenced because I am no longer afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed
I took back control and told a story that was painful to hear but the truth was told with empowerment and strength and dignity coming from the core
Because me speaking up first will encourage another victim to do so and I know that I am worth it, I am a warrior, a survivor, and diamond to be cherished.
— Survivor, age 23