The Ones I Left Behind


Today I want to talk about the women I left behind in my unit after I was forced out. I did everything that I could to stop what was happening to all of us. But I was doing it all alone. I went to JAG. I went to the Inspector General. My complaint went all the way to Brigade, and there was a formal IG Investigation in my unit.

Many of my chain of command were moved out of the unit, and lost their jobs. But as the old saying goes in the military, “F*** up and move up,” so many of them got better jobs at the state level. The IG Investigation showed that yes, both men and women had been sexually harassed and even assaulted, but no charges were ever  processed.

It was a great comfort to me at the time, knowing that although I lost everything, I was helping to prevent this from happening to others. But I was wrong. One voice in a tornado goes unheard. One of the women who was being sexually harassed very publically by Ranger Wags at the same time as me, refused to come forward. When questioned by investigators, she denied everything.

So what happened to her? She endured it for months, and finally after a few years had no choice but to leave the military to get away from it. She had been one of my closest friends at one time, but when she refused to stand up and help not only herself, but any other woman, I walked away from her. Over the past 10 years I run into her on occasion, and each time she wants to pick right back up where we left off. I am just not able to do that. For me it was a matter of principle, and still is.

I know that 2 voices in a storm still might not have been heard, but it might have encouraged more voices to come forward, and then something might have been done. I bring this up now, because 2 days ago she sent me a message on Facebook, because she found me on my stepson’s friend list. We chatted for a little while, and again, she wants to go back to the way it was before. I don’t know if I can do that.

We talk about forgiveness, and getting on with our lives.  But how do you forgive one that could have changed everything, and still kept silent? I know that she wants to be my friend again, for the same reason that Joan and I are so happy that we found each other. Because then she wouldn’t be alone. I know that she suffered, and I know that I should forgive, but because of her silence so many others wound up suffering in the end. I really do not know how to proceed with her, and I don’t think I am at a place where I could completely forgive her yet.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am still beyond very bitter by everything that I went through in my 11+ years. Joan has always been the nice one, and I am the loud and outspoken one. I also wanted to point out, that although things got better in my unit for a few months after the IG Inspection, and death of my career, it all got so much worse for women after that. And, it is still very bad. The only thing that changed was that it got worse, and women got even more afraid to speak up.

When will we learn?

Brigid

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4 Responses to “The Ones I Left Behind”

  1. bookwitchery Says:

    Brigid,
    You may have seen my comments on Joan’s posts, and Jerry’s.

    I’m not in the military, nor have I ever been. I have experienced multiple forms of assault, however, and your post reminded me of an experience I had years ago.
    I was hanging out with a “friend” and several other people (my own brother included.) in the parking lot of the local fire station. We were drinking heavily…yes, I was quite stupid. I could barely stand. A guy hanging out in the group pulled me behind the building, and, well, you can guess what happened. He even asked me afterwards why I was crying, if you can believe that. My “friend” and my brother…both of them saw this man dragging me behind the building. Neither of them did anything to stop it or came to help me. No one did. This woman still tries to talk to me to this day.
    I don’t know why I’m bringing this up except that your post reminded me of it, and I agree with you. If we don’t speak up for each other….if we remain silent…nothing will improve and things will only get worse.
    And yes, I understand your bitterness. I really do.

    I am sorry that you’ve endured all that you’ve gone through. And bless you, bless you for speaking out and continuing to tell your story.

  2. enemyinthewire Says:

    There is a definate difference between forgiveness and “picking it right back up where we left off.”

    Like Brigid, I also had a close friend that was well aware of what Jerk was doing. In fact, I had taken more than one “hit” in protecting this younger female soldier. I was her Sergeant…she was my responsibility. Therefore, when she did wrong or made mistakes, I would stand between her and the senior male leadership that couldn’t wait to come down on her. They were coming down on her solely because she was a female. Admittedly, she was no ‘Chesty Puller’ but then again, who is. However, I would stand to protect her…take the punishment due to her…then she and I would find better ways to resolve the situation. (Counseling statments, extra PT, duty after hours to correct mistakes.) My goal was to teach her…not to degrade her.

    When it came to the IG inspection – all she had to do was say, “Joan is telling the truth.” No further statement would have been necessary. Just one corraborating witness. The IG himself told me this…just one person to come forward.

    She told me later that she wasn’t going to say a word. “I have to live here.” Sure, I understood that. That’s okay. My career was destroyed – my discharge ‘warrant’ signed. Why take her with me?

    A mutual friend stopped me and asked, “Is it true you are getting out because you are afraid to deploy?” NO – I am not afraid…who told you that? Well, my ‘friend’ told her that. It wasn’t enough that she kept her mouth shut. Now she is lying about me to other people.

    Do I forgive her? Yes, maybe, somedays. Will I ever be her friend again. NO! Not if my very life depended upon it.

    Not long after my discharge we would run into one another. She often wanted to complain about what Jerk was now doing to her. I tried to listen, I really tried to care. I knew exactly how bad it could be. Finally, I had enough and said,

    “You know what…you had a chance. All you had to do was open your mouth and tell JAG that I was telling the truth. Not only did you not do that but you lied about me to other people. Don’t you ever make one more complaint to me about Jerk. I don’t even want to hear his name. You want to place blame somewhere? This is YOUR fault. I did everything I could.”

    She never talked to me about him again. In fact, I hardly ever hear from her or see her even though we live 6 blocks apart. Sometimes I feel bad. Most of the time I just feel nothing – except that she got exactly what she deserved. And one of these days he is going to beat the hell out of her, if he hasn’t already, and I don’t really give a damn.

    There you go, Brigid…who says I am the nice one?

    Joan

  3. enemyinthewire Says:

    Bookwitchery,

    I am so very sorry that happened to you. At least as Veterans, we get some sort of “justice” from the VA. It might not feel like justice – but it is closer than many people will ever see.

    Don’t ever blame yourself! Did you consume to much alcohol? Maybe. But being intoxicated is NOT a big neon sign that says…RAPE ME.

    We all make mistakes but part of being human is to help and protect others in those situations. Believe me…I have been protected and I have protected on more than one occasion.

    I was on Military Recruiter duty one night. I was just a young kid. I was only 18 years old. I took some kids up to the military inprocessing station and I went to stay at a different hotel for the night. Like most dumb kids I went to the bar and had a couple of drinks. (I was not really used to drinking) I met a couple of cool guys and we played some pool. I left and went back to my room.

    Just a minute later I heard a knock on my door. I opened it – like an idiot. One of the guys raped me. I was lucky, it wasn’t horribly violent. I just gave up fighting and held still.

    I still remember so clearly…the hot water heater went out in the hotel so I couldn’t get a HOT shower. I scrubbed and scrubbed under cold water.

    Like you – I had been drinking. I even flirted with the guy in the bar. I opened the hotel room door – I made a stupid mistake. But a stupid mistake is not a reason to be raped! A stupid mistake is a reason to wake up with a terrible hangover.

    What happened to me is not my fault. What happened to Brigid is not her fault. What happened to you is not your fault.

    How we live our lives is now our responsibility. Reaching out, loving others, having faith. Those are the things we are truly responsible for. From what I have read on your blog…you do all of this and more! We can’t change the past we can only try to make the future better.

    Bless you my friend.

    Joan

  4. enemyinthewire Says:

    Bookwitchery,

    Bless you, and I am so sorry this happened to you. Sorry that it has happened to anyone.

    Thank you for sharing your extremly painful experience with us. I also had a similar experience like you had, when I was 14. But it was 3 of my ‘friends’ that basically betrayed me that night. No, it wasn’t my fault, and unlike the military, this 24 year old man who raped me went to prison for 10 years. So I can say I received some justice at least.

    Him going to prison will never give me back my virginity, however. But at least he was punished-not enough by any means, but he was punished.

    I thought after I was raped in AIT, that somehow it was all my fault, that I must have asked for it in some way. When I was basically forced into having sex with Wags, which is considered date rape, I assumed I must just put out a signal that says it is OK to rape me.

    But it isn’t me. There are just that many sickos in the world, and they have been allowed for so long to do it over and over and over and over…because too many people stay silent. How many women and men do not report rape or molestation?

    But I am rambling. Thank you for sharing, my heart goes out to you! I wish we could take your pain away, or erase the event entirely, but we can’t. But you are not alone.

    Bless you!
    Brigid

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