A few years ago I was in an Army school in Georgia and as part of our semi-annual training on sexual assault and harassment, we had to watch The Invisible War. It was really hard for me to watch and at one point I was so overcome with sympathy for these women’s sufferings that I broke down into tears and all I had to wipe them away with was my sleeves (which left my classmates bewildered about what to do, sorry guys. It’s a really good documentary, by the way, but please don’t think that that is typical of the whole military.)
I knew the statistics and in the military, at least, I was pretty sure I was “safe” because I wasn’t a new recruit, I wasn’t junior enlisted, I didn’t live in the barracks. Statistically speaking, I figured I was an unlikely candidate for any sort of harassment or assault.
A few months into my deployment in Afghanistan I was sexually assaulted by some Afghan soldiers just outside of where I worked. And when I told my boss, she accused me of making it up. Horrifying, right? I thought so too. Worse yet, based on my previous events, I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was worried that it would just get worse for me and nothing would even happen. I thought it would be better to wait for something even more serious to happen so that my command couldn’t ignore it or say I was making it up.
For the record, my sweet husband told me that was a “really stupid plan.”
Fortunately, there is a support system out there and the woman who answered the call, Aimee, did believe me. I am forever grateful to her and thankful that there was someone who I could call, that I could be moved but still finish my deployment, and that I can help others who may be facing similar issues.