Posts Tagged ‘US Military’

The Interview

May 6, 2013

Hello, Friends,

I am stopping in to ask a huge favor! I am in need of your prayers, positive thoughts and happy energy! After years of being “stuck” in my current job…I have an opportunity for a big interview…BIG – I mean really B…I…G!

For the last year I have been exploring the Peer Support certification and receiving formal training for a lot of the work I already do with my VSO and here at EitW. Many of you know that this blog began as a way to digest my own therapy…make sense of my own trauma and as a place to spew into the WWW everything I am feeling or thinking.

As time has gone on…and as more people have taken to reading this blog – we have reached out to others as a kind of a “support group.” We are not alone. Our experiences are different – but we have a choice…we can live or we can die. I don’t necessarily mean a physical form of death…but that happens, too….but a psychological death where the bastards win. I have chosen to live.

In just a few days I will be interviewing for a job, at my same employer, that will allow me to continue doing what I love doing…helping others to find their way out of the darkness. I would be doing Peer Support on a full-time paid basis! My tail is wagging! My tongue is hanging out drooling!!!! There are no words to describe how bad I want this job! I want this job so bad I am prepared to fall down on my knees and beg!

I am good at helping people – that is what I have been told. I love to encourage people and to lift them up. I was a “bullied child.” Constantly, every day – someone would bully me. I was pushed, punched, slapped – I was sexually violated. That hurt – but what really hurt were the words. “You are stupid, worthless, a nerd, a dog a squirrel. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t smart enough. You are a failure. You bring it on yourself – ya know…you squirrel. You’re fugly, ugly, four-eyed freak.” Even writing them sends a chill down my back…I can hear them – those taunts still ring in my ears. Sometimes…it still affects me. When I feel isolated from a group, or different – I can feel the little girl in me curl up and try to hide in the corner.

I had a few close friends. Not many. I had a couple of great teachers I really liked – they liked me too! We spent time together. One of them got me through Chemistry class with a C…since I can’t do math that was a huge accomplishment!

I like to make people feel good with words. All of the people that I have met through this blog have been such an inspiration to me! They push the envelope, they reach out, they open their hearts. They have encouraged me to do the same. I was at a VSO event this weekend and this woman walked up to me and said, “you are Joan…right? I hear you help veterans – can you help me?” Of course – of course I can help. I will do anything to help.

This feels like my shot, my chance – the one thing that will make everything okay. I recently turned down a “dream job” with my church. The money was good enough…but I called my priest and said…”Father, I’m sorry. The job is perfect for me…but something is wrong! I don’t think I am supposed to leave the VA.” He laughed…and then he agreed with me. He thinks I would be perfect for the job – but he is concerned that it would require me leaving the VA – he thinks God has a purpose for me right where I am.

We both had the same concerns. We both had the same worries. You know I always say…there is no such thing as a coincidence!

Three weeks later I get an interview for a job that would allow me to do nothing but encourage and lift up my brothers and sisters who are living with mental illness. A chance to offer support to their families..I know what it is like to be a mother of a mentally ill son who has a drug problem. I know what it is like to be a homeless Veteran with three young children. To live in a domestic violence shelter. To fight with the system for benefits, for help, for support. I know what it means for just one person to believe in you. Just one.

It isn’t about money, or paychecks or benefits. That isn’t why I work at the VA. I’m not saying the VA is perfect – I can tell you a long list of bad experiences, horrible flaws, ugly days. It doesn’t even have to be the VA – I can tell you about horrible people and experiences in private medicine! Expensive medicine with bitchy, mouthy, hateful people working there.

I’m far from perfect – but I try to give every patient one thing…a smile and a kind word. That may be the only thing I have to offer in a day. Maybe something to laugh about. A moment of respect, a moment of understanding or just a squeeze to their hand to let them know that I care. Every place that serves customers is built on one thing and one thing only – the people that work there. You can have the most beautiful facilities, the best equipment and state of the art systems – but if the people spend their days sucking on sour pickles…it doesn’t mean anything. People will forget what you did and what you say – but they will never, ever forget how you make them feel.

I have had some really terrific success stories drawing blood. I know, clerking and drawing blood doesn’t sound like much – but it is where the rubber meets the road. A link in the chain for how people “feel” about the time they spend here. I told one gentleman, who served in Vietnam, that I felt that he was a “hero.” Three months later he came back with a beautiful letter for me. It said that no one had ever called him that, no one had ever thanked him for his service like that. He was driving one day and it just hit him and he bawled so hard he had to pull off the road. We stood in the clinic hall crying our eyes out. I have that letter and I will never, ever part with it.

Let’s face it – the one thing that all of us have in common, as MST Survivors, is the way the perpetrators made us feel. The way the military made us feel – like we are worthless, nothing, that we are the crazy ones! They all made us feel like we were dirt…rags…something to be used and kicked aside. Then – they told us we were crazy, we were nuts! I was diagnosed by a civilian shrink as a “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits.” Talk about nuts. Cluster B traits essentially mean that you are a “drama queen” and that everything revolves around you. Like I was paranoid and accusing others of things that didn’t happen.

You know what is funny – “borderline personality disorder with Cluster B traits” has many of the EXACT SAME SYMPTOMS of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Paranoia…check, worried that people are going to hurt you…check. It is partially defined as: extreme “black and white” thinking, instability in relationships, self-image, identity and behavior often leading to self-harm and impulsivity.

In other words – he was saying…”you know, you are bringing a lot of this on yourself.”

What did the VA therapist, psychiatrist and comp and pen people say about it…because I asked my therapist outright!!! She said – no, Joan…you are not borderline personality disorder with cluster B…you are a classic PTSD. Although it took me a really long time to describe myself as having PTSD.

That was quite the moment – I must say. The moment when I realized that it isn’t my fault. That I didn’t “ask for it” or “bring it on myself.” The moment that I realized that I was “normal” – as normal as anyone else that survived this shit. They were the screwed up ones. I’m okay – they are pieces of shit!

Wow – I hope the staff interviewing me doesn’t see this ūüôā Might be the end of the job interview :-)!!

Actually – I’m not afraid of them seeing any of what I have ever written. I care. I care about the Vets I serve. I care about making things in the world right. I may not be able to do much…but I can make it right for the few people I see in a day. Please keep me in your warm thoughts!

Peace,
Joan

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The War On Terror

September 11, 2012

I remember the exact moment I heard about the Twin Towers. I was at work, and someone had heard about it on the radio. I thought it was awfully late to be playing an April Fool’s Day joke on us. Then more and more people started talking about it, so I turned on my radio, because I was sure they were all messing with me. It was like a really bad dream. Shock, disbelief, worry, fear. That is what we all felt. Then some of my co-workers went to the fitness room to watch it unfold on the only TV in the building. I couldn’t will myself to go, I didn’t want to see it. I wanted to crawl into a ball and hide under my desk. How could this happen?

Then I thought of my daughter, and called the school. I suddenly wanted to leave work, so I could go and get her, and wrap my arms around her and hold her until we all woke up from this horrific nightmare. The school informed me that several parents had called, some had come to pick up their children. But they encouraged me to let her stay. They promised me the children were all protected from this news, that they felt it was the parent’s right to tell them about this attack. But what they didn’t know was my little girl was in the library, and they were watching it on the TV there. They were just as confused and frightened as we were.

Then President Bush declared The War On Terror. Those words have been drilled into our brains for more than a decade since the anniversary of 9/11.¬†The War On Terror. What is that really?¬†For me, I fought in my own war on terror. The nightmares, the anxiety attacks, the depression, anger, hoplesness. I fight the war on terror daily in my mind. I was terrorized for more than a decade by several of my fellow soldiers, long before this ‘war on terror’. Why didn’t someone¬†come to rescue me, and stop my terror?

I don’t want to take a single minute away from all of our wonderful¬† troops (non-predators) who¬†fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.¬†¬†I never supported this war, but always supported our troops. Think of all the resources we spent on this ‘war’ and how many lives were lost. How many lives were ruined due to injuries/trauma? What did we gain by fighting this war? I don’t think we did. I think we lost more that we can calculate. The predators really were working overtime these last 11 years. So many MST cases, so many VA Claims.

I just wish President Bush would have ended the war on terror in the ranks. He could have, being the Commander-in-Chief. So could President Obama. What is it going to take?

Praying for change,

Brigid

The Fine Line

October 26, 2010

Hello, Friends.

Well, today has essentially been a miserable day.¬† I am suffering from guilt.¬† On Sunday I got a call from someone I know that wanted me to give her a ride to the VA…she’s sick.¬† Well, I was in a distant city picking my kids up, so I told her I wasn’t home and woundn’t be home until later.¬† I guess she called me a couple of times and I never heard my phone ring…swear I didn’t.

Last night on my way home from the VA Рher mom called me Рno one would seem to give her daughter a ride to the VA.  I had meetings I had to attend and then I essentially hid for 3 hours.  I never committed to being able to be her taxi service.

I would like to point out that it is a 70 mile round trip to the VA and back.  I also know that someone had offered to give her a ride, if she could give them a little for the gas money.  I have also seen this person turn a paper cut into a four inch long gash that goes clear to the bone Рat least when she retells the story.

However, I feel like crap for not just going and getting her.  What if she really was as sick as she claimed to be.  I do need to say that this person is not my friend.  She used to be my friend.  Actually, I am older than her and when we were in the  military together, her and some other young girls used to call me MaMa.  Need something?  Got a problem?  Go ask MaMa.

I spent quite a bit of time going toe to toe with male NCO’s that gave female soldiers trouble.¬† This girl was one of their targets and so a lot of issues for me came because I was protecting her.¬† When I filed charges within the unit, she had a private meeting with the Sergeant Major, all she had to do was say, “Yes, this is the truth.”¬† All she had to do was say, Yes.¬† Not only did she lie and say that none of it ever happened and that I was lying, but then she took her precious time to go out into the community and tell people that I was doing this because I was afraid to deploy.¬† Excuse me?¬† Several mutual “friends” came to me and said, “you gotta be careful!”

She acted like nothing had ever happened and for some time after I was discharged she would come to me to complain about SGT Jerk.¬† Oh, yes, SGT Jerk…the same one that likes to beat females with sticks in front of platoons.¬† I finally told her as nicely as possible that I never want to hear another word about him again and that if she had simply taken the courage to stand up for one moment…it would have been over.¬†

I try to live my life as a good Christian.¬† Not a “religious” person, but as a person who tries very hard to put Christ’s love into action.¬† Believe me, I know all of the Bible verses about loving your neighbor, forgiving 70×7, turning the other cheek.¬† But is there a fine line between being a door mat and a forgiving person?!¬† What if your cheek has turned so much that it just “burns” all the time?¬† What about protecting myself from being tortured?¬† To spend two hours with her in the car listening to her talk about the trauma she has suffered.¬† Wow…really…must be bad!¬† Or worse, that she has no real friends…no one does anything for her after all she does for others.

I hear from this person once every 6 months Рand that is normally when we run into one another accidentally.  It is no surprise that everyone she called for a ride had other responsibilities or they were sick.  She takes and takes and gives nothing in return.  Not even the common human courtesy of friendship.  Real friendship. 

So why do I feel so like HELL today.¬† Like I have sinned.¬† Like I have failed.¬† Still, I know that if it had been anyone but “her” I would have been there in a heartbeat.¬† Really, I would have.¬† Even people that I wouldn’t necessarily call a friend.¬† Every month I shuttle my kids 160 miles to see their dad and then I go back again and get them.¬† I don’t complain.¬† They love their dad.¬† I can’t stand him – but when he had his heart attacks I came to the hospital.¬†

So why can’t I let go of this?¬† Maybe it is because there is a fine line – and maybe protecting myself this time was okay.¬† I forgive her – I truly hardly even think of her – and I know why she did what she did.¬† That doesn’t mean that I should have to be re-victimized just because SHE needed someone.¬†¬† After all, that is a small part of what got me into the mess in the first place, when she needed someone I was there.¬† When I needed her – all I got was stabbed in the back.

Joan

Ranger Wags Part 9

July 31, 2010

Then 1SG Wags finally arrived, about 15 minutes later, which seemed like an eternity. He had me just stand there, while he dealt with other people. When he was done, he had me shut the door, and I asked him what I had done to be in so much trouble. 1SG Wags said that I was going to help him with the semi-annual weigh in. I said, “That’s all? You scared the shit out of me!” He said that he had just treated me like that, to get me going, and to see if I would fall for it, which I did. 1SG Wags proceeded to tell me that he could get me these cushy jobs, and what a nice guy he was for allowing me to work for him, and sit in the nice air conditioning, instead of slaving away out in cold storage, in a hot cage and doing manual labor.

He said that I was really lucky that he liked me so much, and I could take as long as I wanted, and take as many breaks as I wished. He said that I could take all day on this detail if I wanted, or I could work fast and be done with it, and go back outside in the hot sun, it was up to me. He said that he could let me work for him every month and give me the nice jobs, because he was such a nice guy, and I should feel lucky that he liked me so much. Or, he could make me pull KP every month, it was up to me.

He taunted me all day, telling me that he could ‘fuck over’ anyone that he wanted, because he had all the power in the unit. He said that this was the best part of being a First Sergeant, being able to mess with anyone if he wanted to He then brough up my husband, cousin, and best friend. H didn’t exactly threaten them, he just said that he could give anyone ‘shitty’ details, or be nice to them, and I should be grateful that he thought so much of me.

I looked at his watch, it was 0922 hours. All I could think of at that point, was how in the world was I going to be able to make it¬†throughout this day, if it was only 0922 hours. I told 1SG Wags that I needed a cigarette, and he said that he did too. He said that he wanted to show me where “WE ELITE” were to have our breaks, at the other end of the Armory. He said that I should not have to smoke with those undesirables at the other end of the Armory, because¬†I was lucky enough¬†to be working for him now, and I should start taking my breaks here. I didn’t respond to much of his rambling and bragging, except to say “Really” or “OK”.

Brigid

From the Top Down

July 28, 2010

So, I have decided to take a break today from posting my Ranger Wags Story. There are a few things I have been wanting to say lately, and thought maybe I should wait to say them until after the Ranger Wags saga was complete. But that could take a few weeks, so you get my thoughts today.

The thought has struck me that since war has begun thousands of years ago, what has been the one constant? Rape and plunder. Yes, as crude and dark ages as that may seem, rape and plunder were the rewards that soldiers got for 1000s of years. But we are not in the dark ages anymore, are we? Or are we? Really, think about it. Vietnam, Korea. How many women native to those countries were raped by American soldiers? Many. Many, many women were raped by the military forces that were there to free them. No wonder Korea hates us, really.

What was different in the dark ages? Women didn’t serve with their fellow-man, usually. St Joan was burned at the stake as a heretic for serving, and fighting. She was also raped just because she fought and lead troops, and was a woman. And she wasn’t raped by the enemy of France, but by her own country man. Sick, isn’t it?

For the last few decades, women have finally been allowed to serve, that doesn’t mean they chose to serve to be raped or harassed. I was raped in Ft Gordon by two privates. I was raped by one of my SSGs (who became my 1SG), and almost by another 1SG. Twice, two¬† different of the most powerful enlisted man in my unit tried to force me to having sex with them. How was I treated when I came forward both times? Like it was my fault, how dare I, I deserved it. I got kicked out of the National Guard because of it. What would have happened if I had just given in to either? I don’t even want to fathom it.

My point is, I was raped by fellow soldiers, and harassed endlessly by others. There is a culture in our military that allows this to continue. What I want to know, is how many high-ranking soldiers have raped/harassed fellow soldiers along the way? How many Generals? Several years ago, President Clinton cleared the CSM of the Army of sexual harassment charges. Oh was I pissed that day. When our leaders very high up openly get away with it, what hope do we have? Until a top ranking soldier finally has to pay publically for what they have done, I don’t think there will be a change.

So, from the top down a drastic change is needed. Did you know that a few thousand years ago, in Ireland, women proudly fought beside the men. Those women were not raped. And if they were, they had this thing called Brehon Law, and the culprit had to pay a steep fine to the woman he disgraced. If he was unable to do so, his family had to. And HE was the one disgraced, not the woman. Too bad that wasn’t still the practice today.

OK, done ranting for the day. Just felt the need to get it off my chest, thank you for allowing me to do that.

Brigid

An A for the effort

July 20, 2010

The duties of my VSO position are keeping me crazy busy this week.¬† Thanks to a little help from friends, we have been able to share a booth out at the County Fairgrounds with Veterans Benefits.¬† It is a great place to chat with people.¬† Even though I would love to sign every veteran up for my VSO – the most important¬† mission is helping veterans get their benefits.¬† We are very lucky…we have a terrific woman as our County Vet-Rep.¬†

So, I am chatting with a guy last night that is a friend, a fellow VSO member and very active with County VA affairs.¬† He knows that I am an MST survivors – he doesn’t know the details.¬† He was talking to me about how impressed he was with a local tour to watch some military personnel doing their jobs.¬† He even said that it was obvious that the women were doing the same job as the men…they were all soldiers.

“My one concern for our female soldier is that they could get killed or captured and RAPED by the enemy.”

He stopped right there…like he himself couldn’t believe what had just come out of his mouth.¬† I watched the red creep up his cheeks and he stammered for his next sentence.

Women in the military don’t worry about the enemy outside the perimeter…we worry about the guy siting next to us at chow!

That is why we are called – Enemy in the Wire.¬† Why worry about the enemy raping you when you have a boss that calls you into his office to hump your leg for 6 months.¬† Don’t worry about getting killed by the enemy when you have your platoon sergeant beating you with a stick.¬†

Rape, Torture, Death…bring it on…as long it is truly the “enemy” doing it and not your brothers in arms.

You know what, though.  I give this guy an A for the effort.  He is learning.  He is trying to understand.  He is open to getting it Рnot just turning a blind eye to us.

Joan

Ranger Wags Part 1

July 14, 2010

Hi, its Brigid again, and here I go with another statement, and it is a really long one. This is a statement that I sent to my Section Sergeant when my¬†next 1SG started to¬†demand that I have sex with him. I¬†also sent this same statement¬†to the Inspector General’s office after my commander betrayed everything we agreed on, for me to not press charges. I will follow this with my conversation records that my Section Sergeant, SSG K instructed me to keep. Writing this statement is one of the most painful things I have ever done in my life, still. It was written in July 1997. I have to explain that the name I am using for him is his own self proclaimed nick-name of Ranger Wags.

I met 1SG Ranger Wags about two weeks after I turned 16, in June, 1986. I got a job through JTPA, and my work assignment was to work at the National Guard¬†Armory in my hometown. Ranger Wads was then a full-time recruiter, and was only an E-6 at the time. I really didn’t have much to do with him, but I saw him every day, and he was usually in a very bad mood. I got the same job through JTPA¬†the following summer, in 1987. This is when I began considering enlisting in the National Guard. SSG Ranger Wags ‘worked’ me to enlist, and i¬†went to MEPS in October, 1987. I did not enlist, because I was overweight and had bronchitis. When I finally did enlist, on 15 April 1988, SSG Ranger Wags was no longer a recruiter, and SSG T was my Recruiter, SSG Ranger Wags had been fired.

On my first drill, I was very surprised to see that SSG Ranger Wags was my Section Sergeant. SSG Ranger Wags gave me a really hard time about not enlisting when he was my recruiter. He told me that I might have been able to save his job, had I not been so lazy and just lost the weight earlier. SSG Ranger Wags made me feel responsible for him losing his job, and I felt really guilty about that.

I left for Basic Training in June, 1988. I was shocked to receive a letter from SSG Ranger Wags, since I had not written to him, nor did I give him my address. I later learned that he got my address from Paula, who was one of my best friends at the time, and my unit clerk. The first letter that i¬†received from SSG Ranger Wags was very nice, he wished me luck, and gave me some much needed encouragement. He wrote that Basic Training was nothing but a mind game, and said that he, “Ranger Wags” was pulling for me. I was very happy by this first letter, I thought it meant that he didn’t hold me responsible for losing his job. So, I wrote back and sincerely thanked him for his support.

Send – Off

July 1, 2010

Last night I attended the community send off for our local National Guard unit.  They are going to be deployed.  I might also mention that the unit leaving was MY old unit.

So what the hell was I doing there?  Well, that is a good question!  You see, my VSO (veteran service organization) was going to be there and that sort of left me obligated.  It was 1 hr of  misery and I was sooooo glad when we could leave!

At one point, they introduced a man that had been part of my battalion, and they introduced him as a LT Colonel.¬† He had been a Captain when I was going through all of the crap I was going through with the unit.¬† I leaned over to my husband and I said, “Just goes to show you…I got f***** and they got promoted.”¬† At that point my husband replied, “what are you worried about…you got your justice.”

Why do so many people equate justice with money?  Yes, I receive a check every month.  Yes, I get care at VA Hospitals for free.  Yes, I am a disabled veteran.  I cannot complain about the money because it is nice.  However, it is not justice!

The money compensates me for what was taken away from me financially.¬† I served 16 1/2 years…I was 3 1/2 years from retirement.¬† The retirement that was denied to me because I stood up for the hard right.¬† I was receiving pay and benefits that took care of my family (for a lot of the time I was a single mother.)¬† The reality of the situation is that I was discharged (fired) for no reason and against my will.¬† Had this been the civilian world, I just might have received a healthy settlement in a court of law.¬† I went from receiving $3000 dollars a month, plus benefits, to a paycheck of $1500 a month.¬† Financial worries have always been a problem for me and this situation certainly made those worries much worse.¬† (there was a time in my life when I worried about what I was going to feed my children.)

In some ways this financial compensation has actually made those worries more pronounced.¬† I don’t want to come to depend on that money in any way, because the checks could stop coming tomorrow.¬† The money still feels dirty to me, like I earned it the “old fashioned way.”

Money is not justice.  Is there a sense of vindication?  Sure.  Is there a sense of justice?  No.

What would make me feel like I received justice?¬† Well, there is the answer that would make people cringe that involves a revolver and a bullet…just one bullet.¬† It involves someone on their knees¬†that isn’t¬†me.¬† It involves torture…slow, painful, aggravating torture.¬† Of course, we all know that those scenarios aren’t really justice.¬† How would I feel once that little scene played out?¬† Probably like crap…not to mention the fact that it would be murder and it would accomplish nothing.¬† Nothing would be accomplished in seeing his brains sprayed out on the ground.¬† Nothing would be accomplished by taking him away from his child.¬† It wouldn’t even help spread the message about MST because it would all be lost in the headlines that “crazy woman veteran” kills soldier.

I think that what would give me the greatest feeling of justice would be to see an end to military sexual trauma.¬† It would be that no one who offers to give service to their country is subjected to the degradation, humiliation, pain and torture that go with being a survivor of military sexual assault and gender discrimination.¬† That is where the real justice is.¬† I would like to see the day when the federal government never gives another servicemember another dime of taxpayer money for being raped.¬† Not because the federal government denies it, but because it just doesn’t happen…ever again.¬† I want to see a time when survivors of this kind of trauma are openly acknowledged and it isn’t something that is whispered about in the back rooms.¬†

¬†When the very concept of one person exerting power and control through sexual force becomes so disgusting to our human minds that the very thought causes¬†us to cry out in disgust ¬†and our flesh to crawl…..then there will be justice.

I couldn’t help but look at the young women on the stage and I wanted to run up to them and hug them all and then have a very long talk about the facts of life.¬† I wanted to take the officers and the NCO’s aside and tell them to do their jobs!¬† Watch over their soldiers!

The Colonel doing the speaking told them to “be sure to take care of each other.”¬† I wanted to stand up in the audience and scream, “Watch over each other!¬† Don’t harm one another!¬† Live and die for one another and see one another as soldiers!¬† Don’t see male or female…see the uniform.¬† Honor your committments to each other.”¬† I didn’t, because I am sure that the Colonel would not have appreciated me.¬† “crazy woman interrupts send-off.”

That is where my justice lies.  It lies in me seeing the day when the LAST victim of MST is identified.  The very LAST survivor.  No more because it happens no more.  That is when justice will finally be served.

Blessings,

Joan

Living

June 25, 2010

Brigid talked quite a bit about what her life has been like, living with MST and the PTSD that follows.¬† I haven’t really gone into too much detail about that but I thought that now would be a good time.

We had a trainee at work with us, a really nice woman, who is also a veteran.¬† Our male clerk thought she was cute and took the opportunity to make a couple of very inappropriate comments.¬† Nothing hideous, just words, but not realizing that words are incredibly damaging.¬† I encouraged her to say something to the boss.¬† Her response was, “I guess I am just so used to being sexually harrassed that I didn’t think anything about it.”

Let me say that again…”I am so used to being sexually harrassed.”

I know how she feels.¬† It becomes a way of life.¬† They say that we humans can get used to anything.¬† I guess in a way it is true.¬† I got so used to fighting off Clarence every single day that it became as normal to me as brushing my teeth or tying my boots.¬† I got so used to being grabbed or being asked to provide “services” that it became no different to me than saying “excuse me” when you bump someone in the hall.¬† This becomes the new normal.¬†

Where did that “new” normal lead me?¬† In my unit there were two types of females, those who had “relationships” and those who were the “outsiders.”¬† I admit, I reached a point where I had relationships.¬† Primarily – a relationship with a single individual – but an inappropriate relationship to say the least.¬† It put an end to a lot of crap.¬† It became a form of protection.¬† When you “belong” to someone…everyone else leaves you alone.¬† So, I made the choice to protect myself with my own body.¬† It makes me sick now to think about the choice I made.¬† At the same time, it breaks my heart just a little bit, because as Brigid knows…I also loved the man deeply.¬† He didn’t share those feelings – I was just his “sure thing.”

I wonder how many of us made those same choices.¬† The choice of the lesser evil.¬† How many of us discovered that what we thought was the “lesser evil” just wasn’t.¬† It sounds like crazy reasoning…but it’s not.¬† I remember being at annual training one year and this guy I knew in the unit was really, really drunk.¬† He jumped on me and pulled me into a ditch in the company area.¬† He climbed on top of me and started pulling at my shirt and trying to kiss me.¬† I screamed and the person I “belonged to” heard me – he came running with two other guys and they pulled the drunk guy off of me.¬† That put an end to that.¬† I wonder if anyone would have cared if he had raped me – if I hadn’t been someone’s sure thing.

Do you know the difference between a bitch and a slut?¬† A slut will sleep with anybody…a bitch will sleep with anybody but you.¬† This was a joke I commonly heard in my unit.¬† In fact, many of us would simply say…”well, I guess you can just call me a “bitch” then.”¬†

Sexual harrassment and ¬†gender harrassment¬† become as common as the housefly.¬† Since you can’t beat them…you join them – in a way – and the cycle is continued on.¬† Only problem is that with each turn of the wheel the cycle goes faster and grows¬†stronger.¬† Right now it is moving so fast that I am not sure what it would take to put on the brakes.

So what has my life been like?¬† Mostly I live in a state of paranoia.¬† But, just because your paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you.¬† I still live in close proximity to some of the abusers.¬† I still see Jerk – now I¬†have Jerk part II in my own VSO.¬† Sometimes I laugh too loud or I am too outgoing or I am just a little too willing to write off some guys “remarks” because I don’t want to rock the boat.¬† I don’t want to put myself back into the position of becoming a target.¬† With a lot of people I hide my intelligence or I hide my insecurity and I just laugh everything off.¬† I live in a constant state of “don’t be a threat” to anyone.¬† When they view you as a threat they will take you out.¬†

My therapist says that I am the queen of “what ever can go wrong will¬†go wrong – only it will go wrong 100 times worse than you ever thought it could go wrong.”¬† She’s right.¬† I know she’s right.¬† Still, it doesn’t stop the fact that I am constantly waiting for it…because when you stop¬†looking behind you…that is when it jumps up and grabs you.

Imagine living a life where trusting another person is harder than just about anything else in the world.  Imagine going into the supply room at work and someone steps in the door and you just want to tear them to pieces to get through them.  Imagine dwelling for days on the comment that your co-worker made to another person because it just makes you all the more suspicious of him.  Then when he comes into your workspace you snip at him for no other reason than the fact that he is sharing your oxygen.

Every place you go…¬†everything you do is covered in memories.¬† Sometimes they are good – sometimes they are horrible.¬† You have to alter your routes to avoid certain places or certain people.¬† You don’t go to strange restaurants and you don’t go to strange grocery stores.¬† You go to the same places to get a tank of gas or a soda.¬† They tore down the gas station closest to my job and now I have to make sure that I have enough gas to get to the next place…because I can’t go in the place two blocks down.¬† Nope – I have to drive 17 miles…because I don’t know anything about the gas station two blocks away.

Even when you are somewhere familiar you keep your back to walls and you wait in the longer grocery line because you know the clerk.¬† Your husband looks at you like you are crazy and he just doesn’t realize what certain things do to you.¬† Or even worse he knows your past and he knows the mistakes that you made.¬† He can’t even begin to realize the reasoning – but you know that in a small place in the back of his mind he will never really completely trust you – never fully believe that you are faithful to him.¬† Even though he didn’t even know you when you made the choices that you made.

There are days you¬†can’t get off the couch.¬† You feel bad because other people are doing things and you really need to clean the bathroom – but you really don’t care.

This is how¬†I “live” with it.¬† It is a new normal.¬† You try to remind yourself that there is nothing to worry about.¬† No one is out to get you – no one is going to hurt you.¬† But you know that is not true.

Joan

The Jerk – Part 2

June 22, 2010

This has been a crazy month full of ups and downs.¬† I have been so busy I have been unable to keep up on the blog – and so depressed that I really haven’t cared.¬† Sorry, just being honest.

Last week I received a great honor.¬† I was nominated and elected to serve as the Commander for my local veterans service organization.¬† It is exciting…it is terrifying!¬† We are not a big post – but we aren’t tiny either – and I will have a lot of work on my hands for the next year.

That joy and excitement faded pretty quickly.¬† Why?¬† Because the soon to be “former commander” is a complete horse’s ass.¬† It has just come to light that he has spent the last 6 months actively campaigning against me.¬† Everything from, “she’s too busy to do this job” to “do you really want a girl?”¬† I am crushed, in many ways.¬† How can I not be?

I loved being a soldier.¬† Loved it with every pore of my being.¬† I adored the feel of a fresh uniform, tightly ironed and thick with starch.¬† I took great joy in seeing my boots glitter in the sunlight because I had spent an hour the night before working up the shine.¬† I felt pride when I slipped a new ribbon on my rack…even if it was just an “I showed up” ribbon.¬† I nearly fainted putting on ‘real’ ribbons – like my ARCOM.¬† I relished the “snappy salute” and the feeling of belonging to something greater than myself.¬† The fun that I had serving others, of being a good NCO.¬† Then, for no reason other than sheer cruelty, someone took all of that away.

I replaced a lot of those feelings with my VSO.  I have been a member for 21 years and I have been an active member for 10 years.  When I came to this post, it was a post in the final throes of death.  There were 8 of us sitting around a table trying to decide what to do and how to do it with just a handful of bodies.  We had some great and dedicated people who built it back up from scratch Рraised it from the dead Рand I am proud to have been part of that effort.  Everything that I can no longer give to the Army, I give to my VSO.

Now this.  Now the very thing that destroyed my Army career is back Рand it is back with a vengence.  My heart is broken and I am scared to death.  What if I lose this, too?  How will I live?  What will I do?  These are my friends, these are the few men in my life that I trust, these are the few veterans in my life that I trust.

Thanks to Brigid, and a few other close friends, I am trying to remind myself that if Jerk II had been any kind of commander, he would have been nominated again.¬† He wasn’t.¬† No one spoke on his behalf.¬† It was a smaller than normal meeting, which was very strange.¬† However, I was elected unanimously by 20 members.¬† Many of those members have told me what Jerk II has been up to.¬† That has to be a good sign.

Of course, these members don’t know.¬† They don’t know about sexual trauma, harrassment, the destruction of a life and a career.¬† They don’t know that these things occurred because I have breasts.¬† They don’t know about the nightmares and the panic attacks.¬† They don’t know that sometimes even their silly little jokes makes me want to crawl out of my skin.¬† Even those that I trust with my life and my sanity – don’t know what I live with.

Why is power so important to some people?¬† Why is it that in the previous year’s the commander’s mission for the VSO has been WE – but this year, with this Jerk II, it has been the ME – as in HE.¬† As his second in command, I have not been allowed to do any suggestions for membership, including two events.¬† I have not been invited to any meetings of the leadership.¬† I have not been allowed to speak at any member meetings.¬† (not unless I demanded for a specific reason.)¬† I have been shut out – cut off.¬† I did much more for commander’s as a peon than I have as this man’s second in command.

I am certainly not so amazing that he would have any reason to fear me.¬† I’m sort of a goof-ball, to be honest.¬† I make mistakes.¬† I sometimes overcompensate for being a female.¬† (I am the only active female in my VSO.)¬† I pick on them and tease them.¬† Why does this man fear me so much that making me a non-person is his most important goal in life?¬† Is it fear?¬† Somebody tell me.

I thought about quitting.¬† But I have never been a quitter – and Brigid threatened my life – so I either serve or die.¬† I just hope that this year isn’t the end of the one piece of the military that I still have left.¬† I don’t think my sanity will remain in tact if this turns out as badly as I fear it might.

Joan