After almost ten years, it finally feels like the right time to share a story that could easily destroy the lives of the people involved. Consequently, I will not name anyone in my story. Besides, it’s really just my story to tell.
In October 2007, I left the world I knew behind and arrived at Parris Island, South Carolina for Marine Corps Recruit Training. Seven months later, my training – including Marine Combat Training (commonly known as MCT), Recruit Training, and Personnel Administration School – concluded and I was stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia, about fifty miles south of Washington DC.
Looking back, I can recall my eighteen-year-old self and how nervous I was to actually finally be stationed! If you happen to be a Marine, I’m sure you can relate – the training was over and I finally got to be a fleet Marine! Ironically, I think I learned that very first night – from the Sergeant who was on Duty in Barracks 2003, formally named Singleton Hall – that Quantico was absolutely not the fleet. I wasn’t aware at that point, but that very Sergeant and his future wife would become the best support system I had while serving in the Marine Corps. Of course, that’s beside the point.
The first weekend that I arrived (I checked in on a Friday night, so I was a lone drifter for the first couple days), I made a mistake that many young, female Marines do; I built a reputation for myself. I would later spend years destroying and smashing that reputation, but I was so young and naïve that I didn’t understand the full price I would pay for my stupid decisions. I’m sure some readers are concerned that I blame myself for whatever result I’m working up to, but the truth is that I do: I trusted the wrong people, I drank alcohol underage, and I had a reputation. There are many people out in the world who agree with me; I had it coming.
Bright and early on Monday morning, I checked into the battalion and found out I was going to be working in Training and Education Company (TECO) as the Company Clerk. Unfortunately, as I would soon find out, a company office is not the ideal for a “boot” Marine to work. See, the Marine Corps is full of people who learn from each other, but I was placed in an office with all senior male Marines who – quite honestly – didn’t have the time or the desire to teach an eighteen-year-old how to do her job. Was it my fault that I ended up in that office? No, and it also wasn’t my responsibility to ensure that Marines that were fresh out of training were sent to proper units. Of course, I guess the monitor who somehow assigned me there wasn’t aware of what it would lead to.
Due to my not having a personal vehicle and the TECO barracks being the farthest from the building I would be living in, my Company Gunnery Sergeant arranged with the Headquarters Company Gunnery Sergeant for me to stay in the barracks for the first few months. In result, I ended up becoming friends with many of the Marines that worked in the Installation Personnel Admin Center (IPAC). As the spring turned into summer, I would spend my weekends chatting and drinking with other Marines in our barracks smoke pit. I wasn’t legally allowed to drink and I knew that, but all the other kids my age were doing it, so I didn’t see the harm. I mean, really, I was just a young adult trying to fit in.
Eventually, I was moved from the Headquarters Company barracks to the TECO barracks (2074), but I remained friends with the people that I had come to know during my first summer. So, in November, when I was invited to a wedding reception at an on-base home, I went. Everyone that was there was drinking, so soon I was intoxicated and suddenly, I didn’t feel so well. The Marines I was with put me in a guest bedroom upstairs – probably assuming I was safe – and went downstairs to continue drinking. Ironically, less than two years later, I would write a Personnel Casualty Report for a Staff Sergeant that would literally drink himself to death in that very house with those people. If that had happened before this fateful night in November 2008, perhaps I would have known better than to trust the people drinking downstairs.
What felt like an hour later – I was really intoxicated so it could have been ten minutes – one of my “friends” came upstairs to check on me. At least, I’m sure that’s what he told the other people downstairs. The next few minutes are this distorted memory, filled with fear and odd flashbacks of him shoving his way into my pants, of me mumbling in an attempt to scream for help… then it’s over. That’s all I can remember. Isn’t it funny, I don’t even fucking remember if I was raped! I have no idea what happened that night, all I can positively remember is that he shoved his hands down my pants without my permission.
Since I couldn’t remember what happened, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t tell anyone. I mean, no one would believe me anyhow. Plus, I had been drinking and I didn’t want to get in trouble for that. However, on Monday morning – a few hours after the start of the day – one of my superiors called me into their office and started asking questions about where I had been on Saturday night. See, a Marine from IPAC had been bragging about our sexual encounter and one of the Chief Warrant Officers had called him – my senior – to inform him.
I don’t know what the guy was saying. I assume that the Chief Warrant Officer had put together some of what had happened and somehow she knew that I didn’t provide consent. The next thing I knew, I was called into the Company Commanding Officer’s office and he explained that I didn’t have a choice, an investigation was going to ensue.
For a very long time, I held a grudge against the Chief Warrant Officer for not just leaving good enough alone, but now I know she was probably very concerned about me. I also hated that Commanding Officer for making me go through the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) investigation process, but that wasn’t his fault.
The investigation itself was horrible. I was asked so many questions, so many times. I was so tired. I was told to be honest, so I admitted to drinking. I was told I wouldn’t be punished, which turned out to be a lie. See, after weeks of being told I couldn’t speak to people, after weeks of relentless questioning, after weeks of what felt like constant accusations of lying, I told them I didn’t want to continue the process. I wanted it to be over. Just like that, it was.
Looking back, I don’t even know if my own mother believed me. Quite honestly, I don’t recall how the hell my integrity came into question when the offender had literally been bragging about it at work the Monday after it happened. I was quickly moved to a different office – which was part of Headquarters Company – and ushered out of the TECO barracks to a room less than ten feet from the man who assaulted me. Again, the fact that the senior Marines who were in my original office just shoved me into that horrible position angered me for a long time. Then I realized that in condoning the end of the investigation, I’d probably made it seem as though everything had been made up. Beyond that, I never even mentioned how near I was to his room to any of my superiors because I didn’t want to cause any more drama than I already had.
It took an additional year after my ending of the investigation for me to finally be Non-Judicially Punished (NJP’d) at a company level for underage drinking for drinking that night. At the time of the incident, that wasn’t necessarily a career-ending offense. However, by the time 2012 rolled around, it was. So, yes, being punished for being drunk while I was sexually assaulted did eventually end my Marine Corps career. When it came time to re-enlist, I didn’t even bother submitting the paperwork.
Even worse, most of my friends don’t know the story about what happened or why I really got out. See, in the military, females who cry rape are basically excommunicated. As I said before, when I decided I was done with the endless questioning and the other accusatory bullshit involved in the investigation, I basically made it appear as though I had cried rape. I was ashamed of the entire situation and I preferred to just pretend it wasn’t real. When people asked why I was NJP’d, I’d just make up some stupid lie about how I was underage drinking at a party and someone ratted me out. People believed me and that’s how it stayed, no more questions asked.
When I look back on my time in the service, I prefer to just not think about the incident. During the time of the investigation, I was the social pariah to all of the people involved. I was completely alone and hundreds of miles from my family and any form of support system. Even though there were people who cared, I was specifically told not to have any contact with them. The Marines that were in charge of me discarded me like a piece of whorish trash. I had no friends, I had no one to run to, and – in that time frame – I realized just how hard it is to stand alone. I heard from someone a few years down the road that the offender had pulled a similar stunt at another unit and was punished for it; sometimes I wonder if I had gone through with the investigation, would I have saved someone else from such a painful experience?
The rest of the time I spent in the United States Marine Corps was honorable. I did eventually make trustworthy friends and many people apologized for how they had acted immediately following the incident. I forgave them. Hell, I forgave the people who didn’t apologize, I forgave the people who looked at me like I was a piece of shit for crying rape when they had been right downstairs – too busy drinking to realize I, their “friend”, was in trouble. I pretended to move forward, but I think that the first time I have ever actually moved forward is today, as I write this down and share my story – the true story – of what happened.