Conduct Unbecoming of the U.S. Army

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Painting of a woman with bowed head
Photo: The Yorck Project/Wikimedia Commons/ Public Domain

Johann Heinrich Füssli, “The Silence” (1799-1801)

With every step I took, my command tried to silence me with threats and claims that I didn't have this or that right. Often, it was simple harassment and the silent demand that I “get used to it.”

This indifference ran through the ranks and across gender lines. The lieutenant appointed as my advocate told me that she had once been raped, but decided not to file a criminal report.

“It was easier to just forget about it,” she told me, and implied that I should, too. I was hearing it again: This is how life is for women in the Army.

When I rejoined my comrades, no one would talk to me. Not even the women. They all faulted me for breaking up the unit, for getting J taken off of the deployment. J had a long history with the unit, while I was the new girl.

A few days after I rejoined my unit, we reviewed some video footage from training. At one point, J's face filled the screen. I was paralyzed, lightheaded with fear and nausea. I ran to the bathroom and vomited. Minutes later, a female I had trained with and lived with came in to use the bathroom. As I sat on the floor heaving with sobs, she stepped over me to wash her hands, survey her hair, and leave. I was alone. To her, I was worthless.

Back home, a prosecutor facing a backlog of cases and an aggressive opposition from J’s high-priced legal defense offered J a deal. J pled guilty to False Imprisonment, a misdemeanor, and served on the sheriff’s work crew for 90 days. When the military officially began an evaluation of J’s conviction and service record, Lt. Col. M ordered me to not submit a sworn statement, to not get involved with the military's separation board or to talk to the prosecutor responsible for the case. He said that I would not be allowed to testify.

Major R, mindful of his career, backed the commander.

“This is none of your business,” he told me, “and you have no right to involve yourself in it.”

With every step I took, my command tried to silence me with threats and claims that I didn't have this or that right. Often, it was simple harassment and the silent demand that I “get used to it.”

During my deployment, Major R often accused me of being promiscuous, of spending too much time with men (which made up about 85 percent of the post's population and my entire office), and of putting myself in dangerous situations. He once said this must explain J's actions. With tears and anger, and no regard to military bearing, I rebuked the major.