I interviewed a Marine combat engineer, who was raped in Okinawa, Japan nearly 40 years ago and now lives in Pensacola.
Bill, who asked to remain anonymous, enlisted in the Marine Corps when he was 18.
“A lot of people said I wouldn’t make it through boot camp,” he said in soft-spoken voice. “I proved them wrong because that’s the way I am. You tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do it.”
Bill loved being a Marine, especially camaraderie of his unit. “I fell in love with the uniform and the ideal of the Marines,” he said.
“I became friends with a guy and we’re off duty, off the base one day. He said that he needed to show me something,” Bill said. “We went off into the jungle. Next thing I know, he had knocked me out, hitting me from behind. When I awoke, he was on top of me.”
He was ashamed and uncertain what to do or to whom to report what happened.
“I didn’t say anything. I was 18 years old, halfway around the world, totally in shock about what had happened,” Bill told the IN. “I trusted the guy, I’d bought into the Marine Corp. philosophy. I was ‘Gung Ho, Marine Joe.’”
He began to drink heavily, started to have blackouts and quit going to work.
“All I wanted to do was lay down in bed,” he said. “The depression hit me so bad.”
Bill had tried to get help for his alcoholism and was told to “suck it up and be a Marine.”
Finally his drinking and his pent-up anger got the best of him. Bill assaulted a second lieutenant. “I don’t remember what he said, but they told me it took six MPs to arrest me—none of which I remember to this day.”
He was sentenced to 30 days to the correctional custody platoon. Once he served that, Bill asked for a discharge and got it.
He continued drinking heavily, became a drug user. He got married, but it only lasted a couple years.
“I really couldn’t figure it out, “ Bill said. “I didn’t want to admit it was the rape that was doing it to me. I couldn’t love anybody because I couldn’t love myself.”
Eventually he sought help with the Veterans Administration and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). When he told them about the rape, Bill was sent to a facility for Military Sexual Trauma in Biloxi. With the help of prescription drugs, he has been able to keep his PTSD and MST under control.
“I’ve been on medication and sober for awhile,” he said laughing nervously. “But I’m afraid not to take the medication, afraid my nightmares will come back, afraid I will start getting depressed over what I missed out on life.”
On Sunday, The Tampa Bay Times published “Secrets and Shame” on how military veterans in their area are trapped in resulting trauma from being raped. The veterans’ stories are eerily similar to Bill’s.
Since my article, Pentagon released the results of its anonymous survey on sexual assault in the military. Twenty-six thousand active duty service members reported they had been sexually assaulted or harassed in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010.
Congress, President Obama and the Pentagon are talking about dealing with the problem. It needs to become a campaign issue for 2014 and 2016. Our military personnel deserve to be protected from assaults by their superiors and those with whom they serve. We need to clean-up this scourge within our troops.