Apocalypse Later: A Military Woman’s Story

Published on March 30th, 2011 in: Back Off Man I'm A Feminist, Feminism, Issues |

By Anonymous

Recently there was a great article in Time about the unique challenges faced by female military veterans. Without going into extreme depth or summarizing/paraphrasing the article completely, the gist of the article discussed the widespread prevalence of sexual assault within the military by male members upon female members. While I don’t remember the statistics and percentages off the top of my head, the stories and figures were rather troubling to me.

I then made the mistake of linking the article on my Facebook page so some of my “friends” could read it. Some of the comments I received were so ignorant and disgusting, I ended up having to remove the link entirely; most of the remarks condemned the truthfulness of the article, the female veterans being profiled, and derided the “slutty” nature of women—enlisted women in particular.

I’d like it to be known at this point that I am a female military veteran, having spent years in the United States Navy as an enlisted person. The commenters were some of my former male colleagues.

While I am certainly not anti-male—most of the men I worked with were very supportive and respectful—unfortunately, some male members of the military possess this attitude that women are deceitful, and—even more distressing—are disposable. It’s almost analogous to attitudes surrounding the most recent Charlie Sheen scandal.

In an op-ed article by Anna Holmes in The New York Times called “The Disposable Woman,” Holmes puts forth the idea that many have minimized Sheen’s history of domestic violence because of the nature of the women he victimizes (mainly Z-list actresses and adult sex workers). For example, when Sheen went on a rampage apparently so terrifying it forced a porn actress girlfriend to hide from him in a closet, many excused the incident with a “boys will be boys” attitude, or said something to the effect of “given the line of work she’s in, she deserved it.” This same motif—”given the line of work she’s in, she deserved it”—has been, to some extent, carried over to members of the military who happen to be female; if you work in the boys’ club, you’d better be prepared to take some shit, and if you can’t, stay the hell out. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s wrong.

Upon reading the Time article and the piece by Holmes, I was vaguely reminded of a rather awful, uncomfortable incident which happened to me while I was in the military.

I was stationed on an aircraft carrier during this time. We were in port in a huge party city, and one night, my friends and I went out to generally cause mayhem and get drunk (I am not proud of this, and at present time I never drink). Many of my friends were male only because there were very few women working in my department; there were, literally, probably ten of us women out of hundreds of men. This night, my liberty partners were a couple of guys I had befriended over the past year on the ship. I knew we were all going to get wasted that night, so I got a hotel room in town so we could sleep the hangover off before setting off for sightseeing the next day.

Like we had planned, we ended up going to a bunch of dodgy clubs and getting absolutely hammered. My two friends and I came back, uneventfully, to the hotel room late at night. For some now unknown reason (he may have had duty the next day), one of my friends left the hotel room and decided to go back to the ship. I ended up passing out, drunk, on the bed in the hotel room; keep in mind I had worked the entire morning up until going out on liberty that day. So I was a bit exhausted, as well as being not sober. Like I stated earlier, I am not proud that I had been drunk.

I awoke the next morning being molested by the other male friend.

I pretended like I was asleep, because I was so freaking terrified, I had no idea what to do. I mean, this guy was about a foot taller than I am; if he wanted to beat my ass right there, he could have accomplished that easily.

I guess he got tired of doing this after a while, so mercifully he fell asleep after some time. I knew what I had to do.

I showered quickly (locking the door, of course, like that would’ve done anything had he wanted to break in), dressed, and dashed into town by myself. This was probably dangerous in itself— being in a city foreign to me—but it was certainly safer than dealing with Mr. Touchy Feely on my own. Somehow later I made it back to the ship. I was so traumatized by all of this craziness that I don’t remember much from this day, but I do know I bolted out of that hotel room like someone on fire. I don’t even remember if I paid for the room.

Afterward, I still had to deal with this person on a daily basis at work on the carrier. He started to put off this image to people like I had “rejected” him, like we’d been in some kind of mutually exclusive relationship, or we had dated. It made me feel physically ill.

At the time I figured I had deserved what had happened because I had been drunk, and I had made the mistake of rooming with a man. It didn’t occur to me until years later that he had actually sexually assaulted me. I didn’t ask for that, and I never gave him any invitation or intent of doing anything sexually with him, ever. I was in a happy relationship at the time, and had no desire to see this guy in any other way than as being colleagues at work. I never officially reported the incident, which I regret, only because I wonder if he did this to any other women—girls, really, as we were all pretty young—in my department.

Anyways, I’m not sure what my intention is in writing this story. I don’t want readers to say, “You’re so brave” or “You’re sure a heroine” because I am neither of those things; I am just someone who went through and survived an incredibly shitty, awkward situation. I guess my point in writing this story is to say that no one, regardless of profession (or anything else for that matter) deserves to be sexually assaulted by someone. No one asks for that.

Also, all military members do put up with lots of hardships to a certain extent; we don’t get to see our families every day, we put in 168-hour work weeks for minimum pay, and we are frequently put in life-threatening situations. However, female military members also have the extra concern of dealing with male members who may have dreadful intentions. In many cases, these men are senior to the female member in rank, meaning the female member can’t really protest or do anything about attacks or indiscretions; in my case, this was also true.

I didn’t really think about this incident for almost ten years until one day, the magic of the Internet brought the past back into flaming, full-color focus. I got a random message from someone on Facebook one day, and clicked on it. “Hey, I’ve missed you. Want to talk?” It was him. A lot had changed in the last ten years: I had developed a spine, and also, I now was a civilian. I blocked his ass with the quickness of God. And told my other friends to do likewise.

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