Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to take years either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entire lives have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. Today we have a really, really awesome crew of of bad-ass veteran women who started a grassroots organization fighting for the military sexual trauma movement, MST survivor, and suicide prevention, but also awareness. And I’m just really, really thrilled to have them here. So we’re gonna go around and introduce ourselves. I’m Marissa, I’m the host of Healing From Emotional Abuse, Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, and author of the best-selling anthology series, Breaking Through the Silence, but enough about me. Hey Pamela, do you want to introduce yourself?
Pamela: Yeah, sure. My name is Pamela Heal. And I am an eight year Navy Combat Veteran and MST Survivor. I got out of the military, because I got to a point after being assaulted So many times, I just realized, for me, the military wasn’t safe. And when I got out, I kind of, like, ran away from my problems. For a long time, I had a great career working as a cosmetology educator. And, you know, then I got triggered by a student actually stalked me, and it triggered the hell out of me, because nobody believed me. And that triggered me just reminding exactly what I went through in the military. And I realized I can’t escape this, and I quit my job, and I spent all my money on drugs, and went through a couple of suicide attempts. And, you know, really, really went to the depths of my own pain. And when I started to pull myself out of it, go to therapy, get help. I, part of my healing process, began to talk about my story and talk about what had happened to me and not just not just the actual trauma, but dealing with it for the rest of my life, what that’s like and why we need to make changes. And you know, that advocacy eventually led me to this group of other MST Survivor veteran women who got together because we, you know, just got fed up. We’re tired of these stories. We’re tired of hearing about Vanessa Guillen, and, Elder, and all of our other brothers and sisters who have experienced sexual violence, or sexual harassment in the military. It’s just like enough is enough tired people dying. So yeah, that’s who I am. Thank you for having us.
Marissa: Of course. Thank you for sharing. Okay, Lucy, do you mind introducing yourself?
Lucy: Hi, I’m Lucy Del Gaudio, US Army Veteran, MST Survivor. Got involved in this fight by a mutual women veteran that is in this space as well. And it’s been a ride, but a very, at times very, with highs and times very low. Like right now I feel like I’m in a low period. It’s been, it’s been a crazy ride. I think for me, what’s been really triggering is a my Latino community communities being really affected. My black and brown communities being really affected. You know, I, at first try to stay away from the Vanessa Guillen case, because it was very triggering for me. But then a friend called me and told me that he can’t stop watching the news and not thinking, like seeing her image and it reminded him of me, and that really just, you know, kind of made me take this deep dive. But I’m very honored to be amongst this group of women that I’ve been surrounded with because they have truly become sisters. And pillars for me, Because at times, I feel alone. Because a lot of my community here like a lot of my friends, they don’t understand what actually I went through and they can’t talk the language like we talk the language when we’re in a room together. It’s a fuel that sometimes we need, but it’s also the support that we constantly need. And I think right now we have to be Way more supportive than combative against each other, because you know how it is when you’re working in the women’s space that sometimes it’s like a combat zone within ourselves. But right now we really have to stand strong because of the time. It’s like not stopping. It’s like you can’t hit stop or pause. And, you know, that’s it. So that’s me.
Marissa: Thank you for sharing. And I’m really happy that you found a collective group of people who not only share what, you know, you went through, but also share the mentality of this needs to be a supportive environment and not a combative environment. I think that’s so important for people. So thank you. Sherry, do you mind introducing yourself?
Sherry: I am the one non veteran in the group on but I am also a MST survivor of assault and harassment, retaliation. I was a SARC for the United States Marine Corps. And I work for the behavioral health branch at headquarters Marine Corps, when I was sexually harassed the first time. I was told by my superiors not to report it. That not only would my career be impacted, but my husband’s career who is a Marine Corps officer, his career would be potentially ruined is was the gist of the conversation. I was told not to ring that bell. I received a promotion, and then went to the SAPR world, the Sexual Assault Prevention Response world where I was a SARC and I stood up a new bullet in the Marine Corps where I oversaw a very geographically distant command. I had over 5000 Marines plus families, on let’s see over 600 locations. So it was a challenge. So every one of the Marines and Sailors that walked through the door on to any one of the SARCs that worked in my command, or the SAPR victim advocates, and I was responsible for that. For that Marine. My Commanding General, and I worked very well together. A couple of them, and I worked very well together, on but I’m here because of what I went through. I was on the receiving end of sexual harassment by a Marine Corps officer. I was later retaliated against by general officer. And as a federal employee, I had to fight in both worlds. I had to fight in the Marine Corps Justice world, when you get under the UCMJ, to have my offenders held accountable. But I also had to fight on the civilian side. And I say civilian side, I mean, the Federal EEO side, because it’s not civilian. There are differences in those requirements and what you can do when you’re a federal employee, and so I had to fight on both sides for justice. And it gave me a depth of understanding that most civilians, I would be pretty comfortable saying, do not have an understanding of what our service members go through on a daily basis when they are a MST survivor or victim of this type of abuse, abuse of power. You name it, I’ve probably been through it. No, I didn’t wear the uniform. But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand or that I didn’t experience a lot of what these women did. The Nexus for military sexual trauma is the military. And that’s, what I’m here to do is to share awareness and build awareness, because there are a lot of marginalized voices out there still, to this day, that have never spoken up about their MST trauma. And to be honest, we haven’t really thought of them up until this point. Or acknowledged that they are a part of this journey for justice that we are all on, I think collectively. This group of ladies has just as taken me in. And I appreciate that. We’ve talked about being lonely. We are we are MST survivor, we are incredibly strong. But even we have days like today where we are. We’re struggling. I think I told you before, but the nightmares that I had last night. PTSD sucks when it’s military, sexual trauma (MST) related when it’s any type of trauma related And we do feel alone. And I think that coming together, our voices are louder. And whatever we say may not resonate with one person But collectively, I think our voices will continue to be heard more and more as we get louder, and louder. And really just fucking louder.
Marissa: I completely agree, you know, when you might not affect everybody, but you if you affect one person and you teach one person that they’re not alone, I think that that’s the most important. And if everyone is speaking up, then everyone is going to be heard and relatable. Does that make sense? Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here, Sherry. Lindsay, would you mind introducing yourself?
Lindsay: Yeah, totally. Um, hi, Lindsey Church here, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Minority Veterans of America. I served in the Navy from 2008 to 2012. I am also the third generation military, my mom served in the Navy, my grandfather served in the Navy and some other folks have been the Air Force. We don’t talk about that. But I experienced sexual harassment. When I was in the service, I was not sexually assaulted. I barely put my sexual harassment together as a veteran that the system of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell them the discriminatory practices that made it impossible for us to share what we are going through, made it really easy for people to harass and assault LGBTQ service members. I have been working in this space for I think, seven years started with student veterans now work with minority veterans see a lot of folks in our work that are MST survivor s. Many of the most atrocious stories you’ll ever hear are members of MVA. I’m really grateful and proud to be leading this community and serving survivors of so many things and got involved in this work through a mutual colleague that I think many of us are connected to that, you know, when Vanessa Guillen was, her body was discovered she, you know, called a group of us together and said, I don’t know what we’re gonna do. And I don’t know how we’re going to do it. But I know that we can’t stop like we have to, we have to do something this epidemic of sexual assault and harassment and violence is too much. It’s too much for our community to continue to stand by and continue to let people serve or not let people we don’t let anybody serve, but to continue to endorse the military as a place that we belong in a place that can keep us safe, and it’s not. And so, you know, what, we’re trying to accomplish a systemic change. We can’t I mean, even in the speeches that many of us, you know, started with it said, Vanessa Gullen, you know, like we want, we want no more Vanessa Guillen’s. Well, guess what, there’s more. There’s already been more Vanessa Guillen’s since Vanessa Guillen was murdered, and Vanessa Guillen was only murdered five months ago. And there, you know, like the story of Sgt. Elder Fernandez today’s is another example of what the military does to MST survivors. So yeah, thank you for having us. Super grateful to be here and have a conversation. So thanks.
Marissa: Thank you so much for sharing all that. And what’s the name of the organization Minority Veterans of America?
Lindsay: Minority Veterans of America.
Marissa: Minority Veterans of America. Okay, awesome. Send me links and stuff to your Instagram and social media so I can post it on the description And fun, weird side note, I wrote a paper in 2010 about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and why it needed to be repealed. That got me into a bunch of colleges.
Lindsay: I thank you for doing that. Because while we were serving, we didn’t have any power to do anything to change it. Much like the situation we’re seeing now. Like service members don’t have a lot of control over the situation. They just have to endure it. And so thank you for your work and the fact that you were fighting for me when I didn’t even know you.
Marissa: Well, I appreciate you fighting for me and I didn’t know you. Okay, and last but not least, Erin, would you mind introducing yourself?
Erin: Of course my pleasure. My name is Erin Kirk Cuomo. I am the Co-Founder and Director for an organization called Not in My Marine Corps. Our primary mission is to advocate for MST Survivors and military harassment survivors. But we also advocate for civilians who are also impacted by MST, military members assaulting and harassing them as well. So our organization is pretty much there for not only Marines, but also Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as any civilians who have been impacted by MST survivor. We primarily came up in the DC area during the Marines United — Nude photo scandal about five years ago — where we were advocating for changes to the UCMJ to hold non-consensual imagery, offenders accountable under a specific clause in the UCMJ. As well as, incorporating that into the Marine Corps as a Page 11. The Marine Corps decided to make all marine sign up page 11 on social media behavior, which to this day still does not have an impact on how Marines treat especially women and minorities on the Internet and on social media platforms. And most of the time when you see that, especially towards women and minorities it incorporates some kind of verbal harassment, sexual assault talk or verbiage in their responses, as well as a lot of racist language. So it’s definitely something that we keep an eye on And that’s also how we were brought into this Grassroots Organization. We had been vocal. Well, Vanessa Guillen was missing, that the Army needed to look further into the charges her family brought that she had been harassed by her superior NCO. And initially, the Army had indicated that they had no credible information that that could anyway tie into her disappearance. For us in this space, we absolutely know the alarm bells were ringing, very loud and clear when we heard that and that we knew that that is going to be something that is a very large part in her disappearance. And, you know, to translate this now to Sergeant Elder Fernandez, this is exactly how the military and the army specifically fails, MST survivors, sexual assault and harassment survivors, he reported violence, sexual contact, combative sexual contact, and was simply just moved out of his command. That’s not acceptable. This is not an acceptable way to handle sexual harassment and assault in this environment that directly leads to retaliation, which I can guarantee you this Sergeant experience. So the Army right now not only has Vanessa Guillen death and murder on their hands, but they also have Sergeant Fernandez. And I think that when you talk to all of us in this group, every single person that comes after it is a direct correlation to their failures, and it is on their shoulders.
Marissa: Thank you for sharing. I completely agree with everything that you said. Yes. Applause. I completely agree with everything you said. The problem I see is that the Army or the military in general is never held accountable. So we see it as on their hands. And it’s their responsibility to fix but they don’t. So I would love if everyone would unmute, can we foster a conversation about that. About the military? Isn’t held accountable, like what needs to change what needs to be done? And what does your grassroots organization do to kind of break that silence and make them make them you know, speak for what they are allowing?
Erin: Oh, I think we have to talk about the command investigation structure first. We can’t go into this man’s are investigating themselves. I just it’s it blows my mind that people can’t see that this is the issue. Like it’s asking the police officer to investigate his partner.
Pamela: Also it’s offering an anecdotal example as to why that there’s such a problem. My fifth install, and I mentioned before I experienced six. I was E5 in the Navy. I had a decent amount of experience. I knew how the UCMJ worked. I knew what my rights were. I was a cop in the Navy, so I knew that shit. I was assaulted by my chief. And when I reported it, the SHARP advocate I was given, was sleeping with him. Classic. And they were they were, they were both married to other people who were in, you know, obviously not they’re on deployment with us. So that that’s a standard story as a veteran, you know, that one. Like people go on deployment and all hell breaks loose. But the thing is, there were a lot of levels and things that shouldn’t have been happening, but they were both Chiefs. The woman who was my advocate was the Chief, and they, you know, had the whole chiefs mess, which is a, this is a Navy tradition. But anyone who’s a seven or above, they kind of are in their own little fraternity of leadership and a friendship and they really protect each other. And so immediately, the entire Chiefs Mess, as we call it, started harassing me. Started making my work harder. I was in charge of the berthing spaces, and they had a surprise inspection of our berthing, and torn apart and told everyone that it was my fault because the place wasn’t clean. Which is just doesn’t make any sense. But it was just like, the idea was to just trash my name as much as possible. And also, you know, silence the story, which is exactly what happened. I got real, real tired of fighting for myself, and I just got really quiet and decided to get out. But, you know, I didn’t get any justice there at all. In fact, I got so much retaliation, that it silenced me and that Chief, he was able to retire. And, you know, now he gets a pension from the military, and he’s a sex offender. Nobody cares.
Erin: There’s no registry for military sex offenders. And for the most part, they when they do get out of the military, they are not reported to civilian sex offender registries. So I want to bring up a case that actually just came out about a week ago. It’s from the Air Force. It’s a Senior Master Sergeant. That was selected. Now correct me if I’m wrong, because I am terrible with Air Force ranks. I was a Marine, Senior Master Sergeant Jeremy Zier, sexually assaulted a co-worker. And you want to know what his punishment was? He was selected for E9. His punishment was his line number was removed, so he’s not going to get the promotion to E9. He’s not going to jail. He’s not being demoted. And he is going to be given the opportunity to get promoted again and finish out his career and retire. So is his survivor says, “This week my assaulter Senior Master Sergeant Jeremy M. Zier, was found guilty in a military court for abusive sexual contact and dereliction of duty. I would like you all family and friends to read my impact statement,” and I will provide that link to you. This is a sham. This is a prime example of how military handling sexual assault and harassment is a complete and utter sham. And it’s infuriating.
Lindsay: Well, I mean, like you’re also talking about like the sex offender registry. I mean, it’s anybody will probably tell you it’s an extreme example. Jeffrey Dahmer was released from the military because they didn’t believe that he would be a problem in the civilian world after assaulting I think was it six men in the military. Yeah, there’s a big article that came out that was like, talking about the six men speaking out there were assaulted. And then he went on to murder people like when he was never transferred to any registry, he was just thought to believe like they believe that he just would be better in the civilian world. Like, no that’s not how this works. And commands investigating themselves, like imagine that you are you get in trouble if your command is known to be one that has a lot of sexual harassment and assault problems. Well, if you have control over those numbers coming up, wouldn’t you want to control them if it meant that your promotion would be eliminated if you were in Fort Hood and found to be one of the like worst installations in the entire army? Yeah, you would probably try and limit those. The military has proven time and time again, even when they investigate themselves, they don’t do so completely. Like when we went so we there was a hearing on the at the for Military Personnel Committee for the House Armed Services Committee and they were talking about the era of #MeToo, Fort Hood and what happened there, and the Inspector General of the Army admitted that the first time that they went to Fort Hood, they didn’t even investigate Vanessa Guillen’s Unit. Well, wait a second. Like if we’re talking about Vanessa Guillen and what happened to her, why would you not investigate her unit or even talk to them? It doesn’t make any sense. So even when the army like comes back with this report that says that the Fort Hood met standards, were you actually going to look at all of Fort Hood and the place it was known to be the worst? So, how do they expect us to believe that the military actually does know how and will actually release the results without an independent investigation? So one of the things that advocates have been pushing for a long time as a military justice Improvement Act, which would change the way that reporting for sexual assault and harassment would have to be recorded. So you’ll be given a third independent investigator, somebody who’s not in the chain of command that doesn’t have a like a say, or like, they’re not going to be impacted by whether or not the command is investigated. You need somebody that’s independent of the chain of command to be able to look into these cases. Otherwise, you’re never going to know like, what’s actually happening.
Erin: And also someone who is experienced in investigating sexual harassment and assault. We have people that are doing these investigations for the commands that have absolutely no idea what they’re doing, have no idea how to conduct interviews, and are simply just doing this to try and move it along.
Sherry: So, let me add to that, having gone through four separate investigations, to finally get to the point where I am now, the first investigation was part of an IG conversation that was held. And the IG inspector asked me, “Well you weren’t you know, you are on the fifth deck of the marsh building for the with the Marine Corps and headquarters anymore? What do you have to bring to this discussion?That would be a value?” Okay, so all the people who said hey, you need to speak to this person who has an experience when you’re investigating a persistent, toxic environment. This is how you’re going to start out that conversation. The second investigation, I was asked to go meet with an a colonel in a building on Marine Corps Base Quantico that I was not familiar with this Colonel who I did not know. I was not allowed to bring anybody with me either. This Colonel whom I did not know took me into the bowels of a building walking me with him to talk about my sexual harassment and retaliation through a building that I was not familiar with into a dark room alone with this man. Again, probably not the best way but he is the one who got tasked to do the investigation. The third investigation, third, that I was a part of was for another set of retaliation that I experienced by yet another supervisor. And this one I got assigned a Captain, who, in the GS and NATH, you’re supposed to have equivalent or higher duty investigation. I outranked him by two grades, technically. He came and had a conversation, but he brought an HR person with him, who then later (This is supposed to be a confidential conversation, right?). This individual then, the HR rep took that information back to the HR office and discussed it. Also discussed it with agency counsel, who, what she was not cleared to discuss any of this information with. Then I had to go nuclear and go to the press in order to get an investigation. Ironically, that worked. I was able to eventually get the Commandant of the Marine Corps to open up, agreed to open up an investigation on my sexual harassment on the offender. And I can tell you, the difference in that investigation was night and day. The individual that they brought in, was a trained attorney. This was an individual who worked for the Department of Justice. Was a Marine Corps officer as a Reservists and the quality of that conversation was like Night and Day. It was truly an investigation. And it started out as such. I mean, this, first of all, this individual came to me in my building, because he acknowledged my safety concerns. He asked first, would you be comfortable meeting me elsewhere? And I said, “No. I am only comfortable, you know, right now, I’m in certain spaces.” And he said, “Not a problem. I will come to you. Would you like to have somebody with you for support?” You mean, I can have somebody? And the quality… But just the questions that were asked, the reason I bring this up is because you have to have a trained investigator, somebody who has served on both the defense and the prosecution, they know what they’re doing. And the way that they asked those questions, you can tell. And it was only then that my offender was then held to probably the least form of accountability that could be. But eventually it was determined that he would be forcibly retired. But he was forcibly retired at the same rank. Granted, he didn’t pick up his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and didn’t get to take over a command full of our most vulnerable population of who leaves for every branch of the service. So there is that which I feel pretty darn good about.
Lucy: I’m gonna jump in because I’m, you know, how about the ones that we never get justice? My chain of command didn’t give didn’t give a fucking rat’s ass. I went to them. I was 48 hours after my assault, I went to them. I told every single person in my chain command. And all they did was question me, and I was the bad guy. I was the reason that I got assaulted. So I did everything to get assaulted, and I was ruining a man’s career.
Lucy: That’s, where I get infuriated. Because again, you know, I hear your story, Sherry, I hear how you went through all these different steps. And then you finally got someone in your chain of command that actually felt compassion for you. But you know what, there’s plenty of us that they don’t give a fuck what happens to us because all they’re all they’re in tuned, is that you are trying to ruin someone’s goddamn career. And I am to the point that we have to have that structure. We have to have that outside command. We have to have that safe place where you could say, I got assaulted. Well, Lucy, we’re going to start investigating everything. Because again, you know, and in the last 45 days, I keep on replaying that day. And when I went in there, when I was forcibly told to leave my room, go get dressed, go to your office, and tell everybody what happened to you. And then hearing, Are you sure? Are you sure? And that pisses me the goddamn off. And I can just imagine what Elder Fernandez, what Vanessa Guillen… and Vanessa didn’t tell anybody. But yet, I told someone, Elder told someone, we told people and nobody goddamn protected us. Nobody gave a fucking shit. And that’s what I’m tired of that. I’m tired of that. Like, nobody gives a rat’s ass and I’m sorry that I’m getting so like, fired up. And so like, you know, belligerent and so like, you know, but I’m just tired of hearing that chain of commands are doing their own investigating, someone needs to investigate that chain of command. At that point, that’s what is going on. Like someone go in there and just wipe that slate clean, because they are an issue. That whole base is a whole issue. They have problems. It’s toxicity. It’s toxic leadership that continues to plague our military time and time again. It’s not just the Army. It’s every single branch and we have to get rid of it. It’s time and time again. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. It needs to stop. This can’t go on anymore. And again, it’s not, you know, I you know, I know there’s people that talk about the Latino community. I know they talk about the black and browns. It’s a freaking problem. Get rid of that good old boys club. Let’s get rid of them. I’m tired. I’m done. That’s it. And I’ve given my two cents.
Lindsay: Lucy’s ready to burn the patriarchy today.
Pamela: When you are in uniform. You’re you are. You’re told right away when you join and you’re told every day after that you are, you know the property of the federal government. Your rights are, you don’t really have them. So when you’re trying to advocate for yourself, it’s nearly impossible to do that. It’s terrifying to say, my Chief assaulted me, or my Sergeant is harassing me. You’re telling on your boss to your boss. You’ve got to remember that, you know, commanding officers and people in power. They don’t want report saying that anyone in their command has been sexually harassed or assaulted. That’s not a good look for them. So they’re going to do everything in their power to silence people, but not because and it’s unfortunate, but that’s just, you know, there’s a conflict of interest there. Because you’ve got, you’ve got someone who’s just been victimized who was, you’re just terrified to talk about it anyway, right? You’ve got someone who’s been victimized, and then they, want to get justice, if they have the guts to do it, which is a whole other set. It’s terrifying because again, they own you. So you’re telling the system that hurt you, that owns you that they hurt you. Just think about that real quick. Like this system is not set up to encourage you to advocate for yourself in any kind of way. You don’t have first amendment rights, you can’t speak to the media.
Lindsay: You can leave either. You can go home, like there’s no quitting our plays are no quitting your job and just walking away. Not that, that’s an easy thing to do, but it’s not like, I gotta go, this is a really toxic work environment. Here I go. It’s like, “Oh, shit, well, my option is a felony, or staying here in this bullshit.” It’s an impossible situation.
Pamela: They have the power to ruin your career if they want.
Lindsay: It’s not just your career, it’s your whole life.
Erin: So, I want to make one point here, because, you know, throughout Sherry’s story, you have to remember that Sherry was a high level, GS worker, government service worker. And officer level civilian employee, she had to go to the Commandant of the Marine Corps while she was working at headquarters Marine Corps to get any kind of justice. Imagine the people like Sergeant Fernandez and Vanessa Guillen. And Pamela, and Lucy, and Lindsay, and me being E3, E4 or First Lieutenants. How do you think if someone like Sherry, who practically works directly for the Commandant Marine Corps can’t get justice? Without close to four investigations? How does a little E3 Lance Corporal in the Marine Corps going to get any kind of justice? This is not something that that we can let go anymore because it is not working.
Lindsay: One, Erin, you I know, you know, statistics more than anybody, like, isn’t the highest rate of folks that are sexually harassed and assaulted below the grade of E4?
Lindsay: So when we talk about who’s being most harmed by the system, and who has the most access to power, you’re looking at the people that are most harmed by the system with the least access to power. And when you talk about rape and sexual assault, I think that people the general public, I think, forgets that rape and sexual assault are not about sexual gratification. It’s about dominance. It’s about power, which is all the military is designed around. And which is a really sad thing when you think about like how our antiquated our military has become. But we now we still in 2020, haven’t realized that brute force isn’t really the way. And yet this is what our culture continues to perpetuate. And so you look at like, how do we abuse the most weak and vulnerable or you’re going to abuse the E4s and E3s. We’re going to abuse the people of color. We’re going to abuse the people who are not native English speakers, or that their families are not. When you look at the case of Vanessa Guillen, and Elder Fernandez, the families are, I believe that Elder’s family is Portuguese speaking. And so you’re looking at like the most vulnerable, both in the military and out of the military. So of course, it’s about power and dominance. And of course, we’re going to continue to pick these folks off, like because also like the military looks at the E3s and E4s as if we’re all in abundance. Like we can just get a new E3, we can get a new E4. We can’t get a new E9. That’s going to take a long time. But so we’re expendable or fodder to the fucking fire. Sorry, soapbox.
Marissa: No, that was great.
Erin: Absolutely true.
Lindsay: Yeah. I’m mad today. I’m really mad today.
Erin: Yeah, I think we’re all really mad today. You know, through our whole grassroots movement, we’ve been screaming about this and saying, “Not one more.” And it’s like every week, there’s one more. Every day we see somebody else missing or somebody else is struggling to get justice for their assaults. And every day we’re seeing, you know, the perpetrators of these crimes, continue in their jobs; continue with their rank; and continue to retire with absolutely nothing done to help hold them accountable. So yeah, Damn straight, we’re freaking angry. We’re really angry.
Marissa: And we should be angry. And the problem is that anger is falling on deaf ears.
Pamela: I think it’s not just anger too, it’s a whole other host of emotions. I mean, there are people that you know, that are in our group. But are really, really, really struggling right now. Because it’s so hard to speak and speak and speak. I mean, many of us have been doing this. I mean, Erin’s been doing it for seven years, you know. This is not a new problem, right. And suddenly, the media is giving it more attention, which is like a bittersweet thing. It’s like, thank you for finally listening. But why the fuck are you now, only now you’re listening, you know?
Lindsay: Well, and also, it’s like, in addition, like, that’s a great thing. And also like your stories. All you’re reading is like your abuse and trauma over and over in the news. And so you’re being re traumatized every single time. Sorry.
Pamela: Yeah, no, it that it’s, it’s super triggering for that reason, because I don’t love, I don’t often go into the details of what happened to me. Like the actual details, because it’s so awful. And it’s not a space I want to live in forever. And at the same time, it’s also true that these things have to be discussed over and over and over again until change happens. And so because of that reason, all of us I think, are really hurting if we’re going to be truly honest. Because you know, whether or not you can manage your triggers well, it depends on the day, and the circumstances of that day brings you. But while you’re dealing with that, I mean, we really all truly do as a group really embrace each other. And so when you see one of your people really, really hurting. That’s really challenging, too, because all you want to do is do better for your community. That’s why we’re doing this. It’s not because it’s super fun to talk about being raped, because it’s not. So, having to have those conversations over and over and over again, please listen to us. Please listen to us. Please listen to us. When are you going to make the changes that we are, as survivors are telling you HAVE to happen? It’s not a negotiable thing. Like if these things have to happen, so that people stop getting sexually assaulted, people stop killing themselves, or killing each other. Has to happen! Like how many more people have to die? How many more?
Lindsay: And the thing too is, like what I would argue is, one of the most harmful things about what happens when the media takes hold is that it’s all we only ever get to share stories. We don’t get to share solutions. We don’t get to say this is the story, which is a really important part of this. But the more important part to sharing these stories is the solutions that come with it. Like why the fuck are you like asking me to like cut my wrists open and show you that I bleed red. And you won’t even listen to me about what I to do. I can so you see this perpetuation of harm and that like it’s sensationalized. And it’s all about, you know, what can I what kind of, you know, what’s the most traumatic thing that you can pull out of your like weapon of Arsenal tools, and actually, the best thing that I can give you is the solution for it. You know, like, you need to be willing to both hear the stories and get one get in the fight and to implement the solutions. If you’re in a position of power, instead of just sitting here and writing. I mean, like writing stories is super important. Now we need to write the stories about what we want and how we’re going to change it. What we’re going to do about it, and what the American public is willing to do and sacrifice in order to make these changes happen. So the media has done great about like getting the story started. Now it’s not about the story. It’s about the solution and how we’re going to put pressure on the people that can implement these solutions to make these changes so that we can stop working so hard for nothing.
Erin: I call it Trauma porn. Yeah, I call it trauma porn because I cannot tell you how many times I get media inquiries, asking me to find active duty survivors that are willing to tell their story. You know how awful and dangerous that is,? I can’t. I am a public affairs person at heart. So I do try to explain the consequences of MST, military sexual trauma, PTSD related to MST. And also what you can do to a survivor if you bring them out and put them on television, without them having, number one gotten through their trauma to a point where they are healthy enough to do this. Second, that they have a support network, because I guarantee you every single person that comes on and does this is immediately going to go and be triggered afterwards.
Pamela: Yep. Ordering and terrified. It’s going to happen to them. Yeah.
Marissa: And retaliated against when they’re done.
Erin: Correct. No, it’s just it’s really frustrating that we can’t get past this. Lindsey said, “Yes. All of these stories are important to show the pervasive nature of harassment and assault in the military. But we have to push through this. We have to put To what kind of legislation can we push? What kind of legislation do we need? Who’s going to support us in this in the house in the Senate, who is going to be there, you know, on those flagstones in front of the Capitol building with us saying This has to stop?” So you know, and I really think that’s what’s important about this grassroots organization is you can see that we all don’t belong to the same advocacy organization. Some of us don’t even belong to an organization. But we are all so fed up with this, that we’ve come together and have said, you know, enough is enough. And I think that when we had our day in DC, you saw that through the press conference, as well. We had reps that formerly, who were in the military who did not support taking investigations out of the chain of command, who did a complete 180 and stood there beside us that that morning. And said, we were wrong, and we are going to do what’s right to make this better. So you know, this is a bipartisan issue. This is not a partisan, talking point. Military Sexual Assault, MST and the trauma and PTSD that results in that, including the murders and the suicides, is a problem that every single party, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, I don’t care who you are, this is something that everybody needs to be invested in.
Lucy: But this is also a huge educational factor right now. We have to educate people what actually takes place in the military, what actually takes place culturally and figuratively, when it comes to being in the inside pocket of the military. But also once you get outside and in the veteran organization-scape and what takes place. People need to realize that not every single veteran organization is there for the veteran. So not every, person that says they’re helping veterans actually helping veterans. And some people are in there for the wrong reasons. Like right now I’m reading my phone right now someone sent me something that totally infuriated me. So now Lucy’s back on her soapbox, because I’m on fire right now. So I’m tired of people that say they’re actually doing something structurally, and not doing something structurally, you know what I mean? I don’t have time for you to say that you’re helping me when all you want is that highlight. I’m tired of that bullshit, you know what I mean, if you’re going to do the job, you’ve got to do it, right. And I want to see a freaking result. Okay. And in the Latino space, we tend to be like, Oh, you put doctor in front of the name, you’re gonna respect the person, if it’s a doctor. And if you put Esquire in the back of the name, you’re gonna respect them, because they have Esquire in the back of that name, you got to stop that philosophy, you got to see who’s actually proven their point and have done their due diligence is really helping people. And again, the mindset of MST, military sexual trauma is completely different. In all of us have different ways of how we’re feeling and how we treat what’s going on. So again, education is key. So you know, the legislative side how things are taking place, of how it factors into the person, the human being. Because some of these questions like media ask, and some of the questions just in the general public asked. it’s like, dude, like, Don’t ask me that question. Do you realize what you just asked a survivor. And that is really something that needs to like the public needs to be educated on what actually takes place, how the culture works, and how we could stop it. Because our biggest allies are the public that are reading these New York Times articles. That are reading that are watching NBC and ABC News. They are the ally that we need, and get them up to speed and maybe we can make a difference.
Sherry: I think it’s important to note that the policies and procedures that they’ve got in place, they simply don’t work. When you have to report your sexual assault, your sexual harassment to someone within your chain of command, that doesn’t work. And the reason that I mentioned every, not every step, because clearly there’s a lot more to it. But the steps that I went through the steps that I had to take even to get to what little bit of accountability. I’m not gonna call it justice anymore, because there was accountability that should have happened. But we have to force them to get to that point. We have these. We have the UCMJ we have these laws and these policies and procedures in place, but they simply they don’t follow them. And every single time that they can find a loophole to benefit the offender, they’re going to do it. They don’t ever use any loopholes, to benefit the victim. Ever. I’ve not heard one victim step forward and say, “Well, you know, they kind of skirted through this for me.” No, it’s always for the offender. By removing and by forcing accountability, they asked how we want to fix this. Accountability. Start holding people accountable. Remove the commander’s from the investigatory process. We have these laws in place. Let’s use them. Let’s add the sex offender registry. Let’s make sure that our victims are taken care of. That they receive the support services that they need. And discretion is another thing, the use of discretion. It drives me bonkers to think about that an investigation can happen. But then the senior person can say, “Well, I’m gonna use my discretion, and we’re just gonna give you a little slap on the wrist, even though you should have been charged under the UCMJ for under any number of articles,” but they still they use that discretion. That discretion is the good old boys club at work right there. Because what they’re doing is they’re protecting the retirement and the pay for that Airman, sailor, marine.
Pamela: Erin was mentioning before, you know, the E8 gentlemen, if we want to call him that. I like to say, gentlemen, ironically, when we’re talking about gentlemen like this. He was he was kept in and he just didn’t get promoted. And that kind of thing. I think an important point that’s been made previously, in spaces that we’ve shared together is, you know, if you do drugs in the military, and your caught, they have a zero tolerance policy. You are out of there. Doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re if you pop or anything, you’re out. It’s bonkers. Absolutely, just wild, insane to me that we do not have that same policy for sex offenders, because that’s what we’re talking about here. We are talking about people who are enabled to be sex offenders, continuously, because if you do it once, it’s not the only time. Okay, so you’re repeatedly doing this as a leader in the military and getting paid with taxpayer money for the rest of your life, and you’re retired, and you’re a sex offender, and nobody cares. As long as you’re not doing drugs. That’s the message that we’re sending to people in the military, every time that someone gets off for being in any kind of trouble for this, it’s like, well, you know, at least aren’t doing drugs like, well, you should stop that, but it’s fine.
Lindsay: It’s interesting that you say that because like, you know, like the zero tolerance policy became a big deal when I was in the service like 2008-2012. The Navy’s like, Right Spirit program or like, Right Spirit Right Time, you know, whatever it is. And it was a big deal because they didn’t want underage drinking, and like drinking and driving and all of those things. And they were so like, adamant about it. I mean, I watched one Public Captain’s Mass. One E4 that got a DUI. Okay. Military is big on discipline. The military is big on rule enforcement. Why the fuck is why if a commander is so intent on making sure that all of their service members or their: soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coasties, are doing what they’re supposed to, why are they letting this go? This is a discipline problem and you shouldn’t be like, I would be pissed if I was leading troops if I was leaving service members. Why would you think that if you have a pervasive issue of sexual assault, harassment and sexual violence in the military, and it’s a discipline problem, and they’re not listening to you like, why are you not taking greater anger in that? I don’t understand that part.
Pamela: It’s literally embedded in the culture that victimizing people is to be celebrated. And the only way that you change culture is you change policy. That is a fact. So yeah, this culture hurts, it hurts to think about. It hurts to think about the leadership that just has failed us so many times. They aren’t going to be held accountable until a policy holds them accountable. And that is how you change the culture.
Erin: Well, keep in mind just in the Marine Corps, the Marine Corps still segregates enlisted women from enlisted men in boot camp.
Pamela: That doesn’t happen in the Navy. I was in a Co-Ed integrated boot camp in 2006.
Lucy: I went through basic with just women.
Erin: And that’s the way it is the last service that still segregates by gender. Please tell me how that isn’t othering a whole group of people. And it also shows your less.
Lindsay: The other part of it is, the military is saying in the instance that this isn’t an issue of sexual assault, harassment and violence. What they’re saying is that the only way that we can control our Marines, especially male Marines, is that we have to take the women away because they can’t control themselves. That’s a bad message.
Marissa: Yeah, absolutely. And this is, I mean, related, but unrelated. This goes back to like, in high school when girls aren’t allowed to wear certain shirts because it could distract the men’s learning. So why are we why is that still like embedded in our culture civilian and military? That’s so stupid.
Lindsay: Well, why am I so glad? Actually there might be a few fewer women that are going to be sexually harassed and assaulted. There’s a part of me that’s very protective, especially of women because they’re more likely to be assaulted by prevalence, that there’s like maybe just a chance that a few fewer are getting harassed and assaulted because they’re separated. There’s I did it all part of me that’s actually kind of happy about that; and also pissed at the same time and confused and conflicted I mean,
Pamela: I think about going to boot camp; they all you know, they don’t know your name yet. Right? You don’t have name tapes on yet. So, it’s all “female” “female”. I remember getting into an argument actually my very first day of boot camp because I was like, you know, I don’t really appreciate the way that you’re calling me female This is day one of boot camp. I got PCs so hard for that.
Lindsay: But for the rest of your career, you’re referred to as a female. It gets to a point where you walk into a room and you know, everyone’s looking at you because you’re a woman.
Lucy: Yeah, I did a I did a two week TDY during Desert Storm in Kuwait. And they told us we had to do PT. It was only two female in the whole TDY platoon. And they basically told me that I had to wear sweats. And I’m like, why the hell am I going to wear sweats? It’s like sweltering out there. And they go, because we don’t want the men to look at you. And I’m like, Okay, so, I have to sweat off my tits for this, you know, because then you don’t want them to look at me a certain way? And that totally pissed me off. So I went out there anyway, and I put on my shorts, my gray shorts, my gray army shirt. And I went out there and I, you know, and I wasn’t gonna let them stop telling me to wear a pair of sweats. And I go, look, I’m sorry, if you guys want to look at me this way, because you can’t control yourself, That’s your issue. That’s not my issue. Because I’m standing here this same heat that yours handy. And I’m not going to be here in a pair of sweats, whether you like this or not. And I had to fight them for two weeks, two weeks of losing. “Private Chinea, make sure you wear your sweats.” No, I’m not going to wear my sweats. You know, “Private Chinea, remember to wear your sweats.” No, I’m not going to wear my sweats. And when I got back to Germany, they’re like, “Private Chinea, were you belligerent?” Of course I was belligerent. It’s fucking hot out there. They want me to wear fucking sweats. Are you fucking kidding me? Like, no, I don’t have time for this bullshit. You know what I mean? So that’s the thing. I’m sorry that I’m you know, I’m Latina. And I’m somewhat sexual. Like I can’t that’s the way I was made. I can’t make that change. But I can tell people like, Don’t look at me that way. Because I am your sister, I’m your sister in arms, and you’re supposed to respect me. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a sisterhood, you’re supposed to respect me, regardless of what I look like. So that was something that really like, I always look back at that, should I have been less of a sexual human being or not? Like, they kind of like desexualize you, but also sexualize you in some composure. And again, I always look back at that, because, again I’m not shaped the way a lot of you know, these PT shorts are made to be looked on, you know, and they ride us and the way our pants look or the way the shirts are, you know, they don’t make it for us, you know, they don’t make it with the curvy woman in mind. You know, they make it for a straight guy, you know, to you know, just to wear it that way. So it’s like I couldn’t make that change, you know. so when I talk when they talk about these things, it’s like, Okay, so what are you going to do about it?
Marissa: Erin, so I saw that you said in the chat that you were denied flame retardant operational gear because it would show too much of your curves. Can you can you talk about that? Because I’m so curious.
Erin: So I’ve obviously I was public affairs, I was a combat photographer, so I was outside the wire pretty much every day with you know, the grunts with military police officers covering pretty much anything and everything. It was 2007 and we have just gotten the new desert, Flame Retardant Operational Gear (FROGS) and you came out from the Commanding General everybody if you’re leaving the wire you have to have this on. So I went to pick up my gear and I was denied by the E8. So he said, “No, we’re not issuing these to women.” I said, Why I have to go outside the wire tomorrow. I have to have this. And he goes, nope. So not only did I have to go and they had to run it up the chain of command because I was the only photographer so I had to go. The commanding generals aide had to call him and say you will issue this gear to this Lance Corporal, went back, picked it up, begrudgingly went back. But get this. While all the other men as soon as we would get back for missions, after being sweaty, disgusting, hungry, they got to go to the chow hall and take their flacks off and go eat. I had to go to my tent and put regular Cami’s back on so I didn’t distract all of the Marines in the chow hall with my tits in my FROG. So this is this is what we talk about when we talk about a culture issue.
Pamela: Yeah, right. Many of us, we’re all nodding our heads like Yeah, yeah, I have a similar story in the back of my mind. Yep. Of course. Our bodies are weaponized against us.
Erin: It’s coming down to my safety. Like, you’re not going to give me a piece of gear that will potentially save my life if I get blown up, because I have tits? Mm hmm. That’s what you’re telling you master guns, right? Like, I’m sorry. But like, as an E3, I stood there that’s like, Fuck this.
Lucy: Miss Lindsay is rolling the eyes.
Lindsay: I was actually shaking my head and rolling my eyes.
Pamela: It’s just too relatable. It’s painful. How relatable that story is, you know. Tired of our bodies being weaponized against us and knowing that it’s still happening because people are still dying.
Lindsay: Do you know how many, like the whole military is like, “You get to be one of four things: A Bitch. A Slut, or a Whore, or a Dyke.”
Lucy: You’re talking about that. And that’s very interesting. I went to school first before I went into the military, because my dad passed away. So that’s tempted me to go to the military. But before I my dad passed away, I considered the military because both of my brothers were in it. And I remember having this conversation with my dad. I’m like, “Dad, I’m thinking maybe possibly going into the military.” “No, what are you a dyke?” And I’m like, Dad, like, really? And that’s the like some Latino culture. It’s like, Oh, well, you’re either going to school and become the artists that you want to be, or you want to go to the military because you’re telling me you’re a dyke. And I’m like, is that the philosophy that you’re really…? So …That’s the spectrum? Either artist or dyke? So I was like, Okay, I guess
I remember actually, when I left and I was with my brother because my brother was my recruiter. And I’m about to get on the bus to go to JFK to leave to Fort Jackson. And he goes to me bye dyke, and I go bye brother. And it was just a way. That was the way we you know, we understood it because again, my dad, in the Latino culture, that’s his perception of women in the military. Was that his daughter if she joined the military, because she was telling her she was dyke. And I was like, okay, so there you go. So, even in the in when you’re in the military again, you’re either a slut, you’re a dyke, you’re a whore. You know, I was called a tramp. I was called a putah. I was called mattress,. Yeah, my favorite. My favorite one was I was called a Spear Chucker. Now, that was my favorite one. Hey, here comes the spear chucker. And I’m looking at them like a spear trucker? And I’m like, What is that? They’re like, aren’t you sort of sort of Indian? I’m like, Are you serious? So I was like, so I was the spear chucker. So yeah, I throw spears. So that was that was basically it. So I was called everything.
Pamela: I think my favorite one was when I was I was married for most of the time I was in the service and my married name was Von Friesen. And I was such a bitch. And so, you know, people started calling me Von Frozen because I was so cold. And I was so happy that men that I worked with found me to be cold and frozen, because that’s what I wanted them to. I mean, I still had to deal with their bullshit but like, Yeah, fuck you. You know I you it does it hard at you. You have to pick a lane. Like are you going to be a hardened frozen — “I will fucking ruin you in your sleep if you cross me,” type of chick. Or are you going to be someone who is an apologist and enabler of that culture? Which a lot of women actually do choose that because it’s easier for them. Yeah, it’s easier for it, it’s easier to support a misogynistic culture that has operated for, you know, a long time. It’s easier to do that, because he in some ways, I think it probably feels safer for them, even though they’re still, hurting themselves in their own way. That’s, yeah, you have to pick a lane, you do. So I was Von Frozen.
Marissa: It’s like, they think that being part of the boys club protects them from the boys club. But really, it’s just kind of planting you in the middle of that culture. And as soon as you speak out against it, that’s when it comes and bites you in the ass.
Pamela: Right. Absolutely.
Sherry: For those that unfortunately, take that route, and then become the victim themselves. Because somebody didn’t, you know, didn’t take no for no, then they very quickly learn once you’re on the outside of that boys club, what the process and what the pain is really, really like for these very strong women who go through this.
Marissa: So what kind of I know that we covered a little bit about like, what needs to be changed? But you guys, as the grassroots organization who have all had your actual life altered by these situations, Do you have any recommendations or ideas for solutions?
Erin: Yeah, I think what we’ve been talking about over the last hour. I mean, it’s a good start. Remove commands from the investigations develop a military sexual predator registry, ask Congress to add sexual harassment to the Title 10. You know, all of these things are things that we all at the grassroots organization support. Not to mention, there needs to be a huge review of all these cases of women and men who have turned up dead, that are listed as suicides, because it’s not passing my radar here. So you know, when we talk about these things, you know, MJIA? These are things that should have been done years ago that haven’t.
Lucy: You remember the stop? Remember when Spears in 2013, tried to put in the stop law. And I almost talked about that during my testimony, because Stop was like the first initiation of like, some sort of difference in code when it came to MST< sexual trauma, sexual harassment. And I was really for STOP. And, you know, when I was doing the testimony, I kind of almost thought about, like, that stop mentality was something that I think we should revisit, also, because it really had some very valid points when it came to it. But again, like, you know, the whole factor, is what we’ve been talking about all that all that change has to take place. You know, just the conversation we’ve been having, we’ve all experienced layers of different multitude of harassment and sexual assault, and it’s just tiring. But again, making those changes, that third party investigating process is something that’s so vital, and so needed. And, and again, just making, making awareness of the change needs to take place, and getting people to jump on board, it’s like, again, we’re tired, we’re seeing that it’s really problematic issue, and we just have to really try to change the game.
Marissa: I like that. And I definitely think that getting Congress members involved is a huge part of that. Because truly, that’s the only thing aside from the President that’s above the military, which is really unfortunate.
Erin: They’ve shown they’re not going to fix themselves.
Marissa: Right? Well, why would they if they don’t have to? And they don’t want to be held accountable anyways. I mean, going back to what we said before, you know, their pension and their promotion, everything is based on their numbers. So if they have a higher rate of sexual assault at their installation or their base, why would they impact their own lives to help other people it doesn’t make sense for them. For me, and for us, it all makes sense because you want to, make the change and make the military safe for everyone. But I guess from where they’re sitting, it doesn’t look like that. Right?
Lucy: So, the lens, the lens, the lens definitely needs to be cleaned. Yeah, in the sense from the from the civilian eye. They have to see like again, we washed the lens during the MeToo movement. There was a different lens. And now you have to wipe off those glasses and look at the lens from the military end of what actually takes place. Because remember, women, we raise our right hand. And we go in there and we protect to serve, and nobody’s protecting us. And we again, if we are protecting you, then you know what, as a civilian, you have your due diligence to learn how you could change the culture for the people that are protecting you. And to me, that’s a big, I always say, again, I think sometimes our biggest allies are within ourselves, but the outside nature of the civilian party, they really need to know how they can also help us as well.
Pamela: I think the biggest thing, the best thing about this summer, the only positive is that people are listening. Even though you know, the cost has been great. But people are listening. And I think the one thing that I probably the last thing I have to say about any of this today is you know, I really encourage and implore civilians to really listen to veterans and service members, because there are a lot of civilians that are suddenly interested in helping us. You’ll see a lot of civilians that are saying that they’re fighting for survivors, they’re fighting for veterans, they’re fighting for service members. But how close are they to veterans? Because we’ve lived this. And we know what we’re talking about. We know what this world is like. And Sherry, I don’t mean you, you’ve survived something within the military. That’s a separate conversation. I’m talking about folks that call themselves advocates, and maybe they aren’t. I just implore you, I implore civilians to listen to veterans who have survived these horrors, because this isn’t a new trend for us. This is our life; we’ve lived it. So it’s important to give us the space to really tell you what we need. And tell you this isn’t up for debate. Like this is how it is and this is how it needs to change. And if you haven’t survived and live that your opinion is just, it’s just an opinion.
Erin: And I got I gotta jump in on that. Because yes, it drives me crazy When I see all of these people doing 22 Til None, you know, I Got Your Six. All of these kinds of things that are geared specifically towards men with PTSD. That where sexual assault and harassment and MST survivors that have PTSD, potentially on top of combat PTSD are having to deal with. But it drives me crazy, because I don’t see any you guys talking about this issue. But you’re 22 Til None; I Got Your Six. You know, it really is frustrating. It’s really infuriating that we as MST survivors, and women and men who suffer greatly with PTSD and MST are completely left out of that conversation. So wouldn’t Warrior Project I’m calling you out where ya at? Yeah.
Lucy: Yeah, again, you know, we’re like the invisible disability in that sense. So people go, oh, what’s your disability? And I’m like, I have PTSD. Oh, really? You call that a disability? Yeah, because I goddamn struggle every goddamn single day. You know what I mean? And a lot of organizations again, like, you know, the Wounded Warriors and different organizations, they don’t see that correlation. I had a backout of Team Red, White and Blue. Let’s use that. They’re a great example of how crappy they are. Because I wasn’t the Veteran. I wasn’t the mold of the veteran that they wanted the imagery of. So I was a 279 pound Captain. And again, you know, when I was holding the flag, they were looking at the weight they were looking at me Lucy, the veteran holding the flag. But the minute I decided to lose the weight because I became healthy and I took my health very into consideration. And I dropped 112 pounds and decided to go holistic with my PTSD. Then Lucy was the swelt Captain holding a flag and they want to Lucy for that imagery. So you know what, F***you because I’m not going to let that happen anymore. And that can happen but I would I say is like, the way we operate, the way with Pam, the way with Erin. We are here to support each other. There’s nothing better than someone that knows what happened to support each other. So if you have questions about what’s really going on, come to a survivor. We’ll tell you how, and when and, and where and what you could do for us. because trust me, I love it when someone goes to me “Hey, Lucy, could you just talk to me? Walk me through this,” and I’ll walk you through it. But don’t make these assumptions that because you read something on a veteran service organization, and hey, do 22 push ups because that’s gonna make me feel better. No. I’m sorry.
Pamela: I agree with you the push-up thing is weird. It’s weird. What? How are you helping? I’m happy for your biceps bro, but what the…?
Lucy: You know, I look at my Facebook thread. And I see like a civilian women. “I swam three miles, and I did that to help those who are in pain from serving in the military?” No you didn’t. You did it because you’re a lunatic. I have no other choice but to run the three miles. You’re not helping me? How did that affect me? No, that didn’t help me. And that’s the thing. Again, I hate that like, whew, look, I you know, she’s putting you know, they’re posing there with their guns out. I just went three miles. I just went three miles. But again, that didn’t help me. That didn’t do anything for me. Again, I feel I’m not feeling your pain. Because I didn’t swim the three miles for you. You know, I do my runs, I hashtag things. That’s my self-gratification. But I’m not going to tell others Hey, run three miles with me because it’s gonna make you feel better. No, half the people that are in my pack, like if I took Pam for a three mile run, she’ll probably pass out a mile one, you know? What I’m just saying? I’m just saying, but that’s right. But that again, that mentality of like, like, let’s drop and do 20 to make someone feel good. I don’t get it
Pamela: I don’t understand that. Like, how are you keeping people from killing themselves by doing some push ups? I’m sorry, when I workout. I don’t think that I’m saving anyones life. Like I just I don’t understand that and how that is? Okay. Then you check the box today. And you’re doing you’re making the world by doing some push ups? I don’t get it.
Erin: Yet, they can’t they can’t take five minutes to call their representatives.
Lucy: The span of time you took for that three mile swim, you could have taken and sat on the phone and called Kirsten Gillibrand, and called Cory Booker and called everybody and said, “Hey, could you help a veteran by doing this, this and that?” instead of saying, like, how about like, have you heard what happening? And hey, let’s talk about that. Instead of saying, Oh, I’m going to run and I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna do drop. And then and then post it on social media and oh, my God, you did good for a veteran, you know, no. It doesn’t work that way. You know, I mean, it just doesn’t work that way. I’m sorry. I mean, like You got me on a good day today, because I’m so like…
Pamela: You know, people often say and I’m sure you guys all have heard this, “thank you for your service.” It kind of it’s, it’s this hollow thing for me when I hear people say that, like, what do you want me to say in return? You’re welcome? You’re like that. And they say it with this like, Oh, and by the way, thank you for your service. You’re my trauma. Yeah, it’s like I want to be like, okay, you’re welcome. Can you sign this petition? Would you could you follow these accounts, please, and educate yourself a little bit more. I mean, you just kind of shrug and go. Mm hmm.
Lucy: I feel like I should have I feel like I should have glitter in my pocket. Like you’re welcome. Like Listen, look what I just did. And I’m supposed to be like, Hey, thank you.
Sherry: Only if it’s red, white and blue. Lucy.
Lucy: Like I sit there and I’m like, I just can’t I guess I again, I know that people are gonna listen to this. And I’m gonna see like, unfriend, unfriend. Who cares? Let it go. You know what I mean? I already, you know, between mine and Erin’s web posts, I’ve lost more than this house. I’ve lost my waffles and pancakes. I’ve lost tons of friends on that respect, you know, but you know, but again, there has to be this realization that Yeah, I know people want to do good but there’s other ways you could do good when it comes to this. What we’re fighting for.
Pamela: As a Veteran what they need. How about that, instead? Telling you like what you need because we can tell you the answer.
Lucy: Yeah, let’s talk about veteran homelessness. Let’s talk about the lack of medical attention. Let’s talk about the needs of MST survivors. that they’re not getting back help.
Erin: Let’s talk about how the VA is failing MST survivors.
Lucy: And how and how we get harassed in the military, and then we get harassed in the VA? Yeah You know, I walked into the VA in East Orange, New Jersey, and I was waiting for a group of people. We were going to have a meeting with the director of the VA. And I’m standing there, you know, I came from work, so I was pretty business attire. And this older veteran, you know, he had his hat on all his, you know, glory to be God, you know, I’m a veteran, and he goes to me, hey, sweetheart, he goes, why don’t you come sit on my lap, I’ll tell you some stories. I went up really close to him right in his ear, and I said, “Look M-Fer,” I go, “I’ll sit on your lap, and I’m going to tell you some stories and you’re not gonna freaking like them.” And I said, more colorful than that. But it’s like, they automatically assume that I’m there for other reasons. I’m like, I’m a veteran, too. You know what I mean? Don’t talk to me that way. Don’t disrespect me that way. So again, we have to deal with that afterwards. And you know, and again, the assault has taken place at the VA. But again, the lack of gender specific healthcare, the lack of I mean, in New Jersey, we don’t even have a mammogram machine. We have 27,000 female veterans and one mammogram machine. So those are the issues. Again, we have transition housing, we have a plight of transitioning and homeless veterans, and we only have eight beds, if you transition, and you’re a woman, and God forbid you have a child because then you have none. And we have to put you in a homeless shelter. Those are other things that people don’t realize it’s a gamut of issues when it comes to the women’s fight.
Erin: We all talk about male suicide numbers. But look at look at the female, the women’s suicide numbers per capita are even larger than what the males are there.
Pamela: And make no mistake about it. Everyone that we work with, has had to face challenges like that. This isn’t like a faceless issue. I’ve been homeless. I’ve tried to kill myself twice. I’ve had to go into treatment. And I’ve had to go into the VA to get my care. And I’ve had dick pics, airdrop to my phone at the VA I had a guy, another veteran tell me he would fuck the sadness right off of my face. Okay, I’ve there was an older male veteran who was in line behind me at Starbucks at the VA one time who pushed me. And then when I yelled at him, I was the problem. Right?
Lucy: Wait, there’s a Starbucks in the VA. What’s that all about?
Pamela: Oh, yeah there is. Yeah. Oh, yeah. In San Francisco. There is West Coast baby. It’s the West Coast. I don’t even know if that’s really… But anyway, um, yeah, I mean, the retaliation and victimization is so much a problem for women veterans, as MST survivors, as we just are naturally selected as the benefactors of so much sexual harassment and gendered discrimination, that it’s almost like, we’re sitting here and I’m like, Oh, yeah, the VA, that’s another part of the fight, too. I keep forgetting
Erin: We can go for another two hours on that.
Pamela: Many things that we that we have to struggle with, as a result of the traumas that we faced in uniform, it goes on for the rest of your life. I mean, these triggers are real. There are people, fellow advocates and fellow survivors and fellow veterans of mine that I’m genuinely concerned about today, right now, who are in this fight with me. And you know, what, in a couple of days, or a couple of months or a couple of years, those hats might change, and they might be worried about me, this is a, this is a fight for the rest of your life. This isn’t something this isn’t baggage that we get to put down and sit down somewhere. It’s something that happened to us that we will live with forever, and the people that we love and care about are experiencing the same thing. So it’s wild that we have to keep telling people listen to us because we’re dying.
Lucy: And some of us have learned how to play with our demons better than others. You know what I mean? I know that at times, I know Sherry must be like, I can’t believe this is like these women are… I love looking at Sherry’s face because she’s been like, so uh. But, you know, I learned I hid my demons for a very long time and they laid very dormant. And then when they started to creep on in and I saw how bad I really was, I really had to learn how to again, finesse them and work with them, opposed to continue to struggle. And that’s something that again, it’s difficult and it’s a learning process and some of us don’t. Well, some of us don’t, you know, others are right in the middle. And some of us just, it just fails us. And then we take turns that we don’t want to take. And, again, we have to create these safe spaces in the military, we have to create safe spaces outside of the military, So we could function and we could live and we could grow. Because some of us have really grown. And we really, again, had like the women that are here with me and Lindsay, we really have grown. And still, there’s once in a while, like when I wake up, and I’m back to that demon filled Lucy, that just doesn’t know how to take my first step out of bed. And those are the things that again, it’s a constant, it’s a constant day, you don’t know what the next day is going to bring. So I kind of started this philosophy of what when I wake up, I put my two feet feet on the ground, I thank, you know, whatever the higher being is that’s going to that got me up, I take my deep breath, and I see what the day is going to lead me to. And that’s the way I have to function Because again, sometimes I’ve put my two feet on the ground. And I’m like, crap, I have to deal with this nonsense again. And that’s something that it’s just an everyday constant cycle. And we just have to try to make it an even playing field, then we have to work at it. And we have to work it all together.
Marissa: Thank you guys all so, so much for being here today. I mean, I learned so much, and I’m so saddened to hear I mean, it’s not news to me that this happens, but like to hear people’s stories is still so heart-wrenching. And you guys are doing such an amazing thing by advocating for survivors and, you know, fighting for safety for everyone. I mean, it’s ridiculous that in 2020, we’re still having this conversation. But it’s a conversation that needs to be had. And like I literally could not be more honored to be surrounded by you guys. And I’m really grateful that you came on the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast today and wanted to talk about this and continue to fight for it. And I’m happy to help in any way that I can. I know I have a bunch of the Instagram handles and Facebook links. But if there’s anything else that you guys want to share any thing that you have that can help other people get involved in the fight and know what you need and ask for what you need and stop doing these like dumb push ups and ruck marches. And I mean, ruck marches are great, but like swimming three miles for somebody else’s sanity, that doesn’t make sense. You’re right. But that’s right now civilians like that’s all we have. We’re like grasping at straws to help. We have no direction. So if you guys have insight and links to post and ways for us to get involved, like I know I want to be involved.
Lucy: Like I’ll challenge let’s say this, I’ll challenge any civilian, to go onto the road with me next I was supposed to do, I was supposed to do Chicago, New York City this year. So I’ll take a civilian. Do the Chicago Marathon with me do York City with me matched the donation. And if you want to help me, then run alongside me and be my buddy. That’s how you should help a veteran. So if you wanted to do that, you want to take that challenge next year 2021. I’m doing Chicago and New York City matched a donation that I’m making two TAPS to the tragedy system program for survivors. Match a donation that I’m making run alongside me and then you will help that veteran because you know what you’ll be supporting me. So I take up on anybody who’s listening to this and wants to do that with me.
Marissa: So I’m in because now that’s my motivation. I’m in we just have to stay in contact and if anyone else wants to join me and watch me cry after running for more than ten feet.
Pamela: I got bad knees from the military man. My knees are shot and I wish I could run and that’s why when Lucy said I probably pass out she was hella right? Like, dude, no, I’ll dance. That’s my exercise. But anyway, run with Lucy so I can sit at home and rest which I also deserve. Okay.
Sherry: That’s a Hashtag right there. #RunWithLucyForVeterans
Lucy: Again, find, find a survivor that’s using that run for a survival tactic. That’s what I do. That’s part of my mantra. That’s part of what my daily life is, and I do my running. So again, if you want to do that, hey, I’ll be more for it and run alongside me. Give me that support. Tell me that you’re there for me. Not telling me that I’m doing something. And then Who is it? Who are you benefiting? Who’s the benefactor of that and that’s What I challenge you to do?
Marissa: Thank you guys. I mean, I’m, like I said, I’m so grateful that you were all here today and wanted to talk to me and I want to help in any way I can. And I’m sure a lot of other people that are listening do too. So I’ll post all the links and everything that you guys send me. And don’t forget for everyone listening to call your Congress, people and advocate for MST Survivors, MST Survivor, MST, because that’s the most important thing is to change the policies and to make it safe for everyone. They’re fighting for our freedom. So why are we not fighting for theirs? It just doesn’t make sense. So thank you guys again, and I’m sure that we will all be talking again very soon.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!
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