Conduct Unbecoming of the U.S. Army

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“I have done nothing wrong,” I shouted. “He made his own decision to rape me.” The major cringed at the word “rape,” then stared at me with contempt and told me to leave his office.

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Photo: KatB Photography/Flickr/cc-by-nc-2.0

I was fighting Army culture, but also myself. I couldn't be honest about how much I was struggling, how depressed I was, or even the nightmares I was having almost every night, at the risk of losing privileges, my rank, my security clearance and my job. So I stayed silent and isolated myself, even from those at home. I couldn't tell anyone that I was starving myself and that I didn't know how to stop. I couldn't tell anyone about the night I cut my arms and thighs, and my continuing urges to cut. I couldn't tell anyone about the phantom child I felt in my womb, wondering if he would have J’s eyes, or what I would tell her when she asked about her father.

I was exhausted, depleted of the energy it took to constantly be on-guard and feign normalcy. I spent almost every off-duty hour in bed, sleeping, reading or watching movies. I lost almost 25 pounds within a few months into my deployment. When Major R heard of my weight loss, he accused me of staging a ploy to make him look bad and to solicit pity or attention.

I was in the Army National Guard, but to get support, I had to go to the command of another state’s Guard unit. I wasn't a liability to them, I wasn't their responsibility, so they were willing to help. They got me in contact with the prosecution back home, and authorized my return to the United States for the separation board.

When I arrived back in the States, I spent my first six hours on the ground with the prosecuting legal officer preparing for the next day's board.

I prepared myself to face J. I was determined to show that I was still succeeding despite the devastation he caused me. I wanted him to know that I was stronger, still fighting and still standing. I wore my Class A’s, decorated with the many awards I had earned while deployed, and a higher rank from a meritorious promotion.

The proceedings began with the defense objecting to my testimony, and it was approved. I had traveled for two days halfway across the world to testify against my attacker, and I wouldn't even be given a chance to speak.

“Get used to it,” I thought bitterly, “this how life is for women in the Army.”