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. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds 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. I have received so much support and positive feedback from people about IAmVanessaGuillen and having military sexual trauma movement, and MST survivor and champions speaking out about their assaults. But what really makes me proud is the amount of love support and encouragement my co-hosts have received from this community and their friends and loved ones. The military, as we’ve so subtly stated, has a tendency to sweep these assaults under the rug. But enough is enough. And clearly it’s time to speak out and change some policies. Today, I’m so honored to bring on Melissa King. She is a marine veteran that served eight years, four active and four in the inactive reserves. She’s a badass champion who’s speaking out about her abuse, and how the Marines mishandled, didn’t acknowledge and completely ignored it. She’s here today to share her story and empower other military sexual assault champions to speak out too. Hey, Melissa, how are you today?
Melissa: I’m pretty good. How are you?
Marissa: Oh, I’m so good. Thank you for being here.
Melissa: You thanks for inviting me. Thanks for asking.
Marissa: So if you wouldn’t mind, tell us your story.
Melissa: So I guess my story starts with my recruiter back in 2010. Looking back now, he was a predator. I was 21 when I joined the Marine Corps. And when I was in the cadet program, being poolee before I entered to go into boot camp, and he was a sergeant. And I don’t know how our, quote unquote relationship started. But it eventually led to like us being intimate at one point. And I don’t know, like, looking back now, I highly, like regret everything that happened. And it was definitely an abuse of power that he pulled. And I know, I wasn’t the first. And I know after I left, I definitely was not the last. He like pursued me through things like telling me he would wait for me. And that I was the one for him like little things that women would like to hear from a man but I know had no value and no weight to them. I remember telling my best friend Blake at the time about what was happening and he was upset. And he was mad. But he didn’t say anything to anyone. He didn’t report it. And I didn’t report it. And I think that’s sometimes we regret it now, but I think was for the best. I think it would have like destroyed our career before we even started. And then I got to MOS school in 2011. And I was living in the barracks and there was this corporal who was a barracks manager. I later found out that he was from infantry MOS. So I’m from Dispersium, like, I do finance and everything. He was an infantry Marine, but he was I think, such a complete shitbag that they removed him from the unit, just put them in the barracks. And he was in charge of, you know, taking care of rooms management. And I forget how that whole thing started. But I remember he would like text me late at night. He was a corporal and I’m pretty sure he was like, married with a kid. And he would like text me late at night and be like, what are you doing? What are you wearing? There was one day, in February right before the Superbowl, he called me to his office. And I remember I was in my Cami’s. And he’s like, leaning back in his chair, and he’s just kind of like, I have a proposition for you. Or like I have this bet to make with you. I was like, what’s the bet he’s like, if my football team wins, you have to give me a lap dance. I was like, a very insecure individual. And I didn’t have the confidence or the assertiveness that I have now. So I did like the shy little Haha, like that’s cute. If your team wins, you have to come up with something, you know to do for me and I was like, I’ll get back to you. But like in that in the office, like he got up and he walked from his chair and he like just came over to me and he was like, touching me like groping me through my cami’s. And I was just like, how do I get out of here? Like I have never been good at like the fight. I’ve always frozen in situations like that. I wish I could fight back or just run but my body doesn’t do it. And I remember telling my fellow marine about it. I was like, “Yeah, Hodges just like completely groped me in his office and, you know, made a bet with me that I have to give them a lap dance.” And my friend like laughed in my face about it. Just kind of walked away from me. And it brought me back to a time when I was 16 when I was raped by a friend. And I had told our mutual friend about it. And my mutual friend looked at me and was just like, you can’t tell anyone what happened because he doesn’t deserve to go to jail. And having my friend laugh at me, after telling him about what the corporal did just built on this foundation that I’m not allowed to voice, what happened to me, I’m not allowed to talk about my struggles. Or, I don’t know. And then fast forward to Okinawa in 2011. Later that year, I think I finally made it to PFC. So it was a very slow promotion. There was a sergeant out there that pulled the kind of like the same predatory style that my recruiter had done, I would come into the office and he would like leave little monster energy drinks on my desk. Or he would write cute little notes in my green monster, which is our notebook in the military. Or he would like send me emails, or we worked on the system 32-70 system in the dispersing office, which is where you can pull up all the profiles to pay people. And you can send anonymous messages that aren’t traced aren’t reported. So he would send me messages on there. And I remember there’s two incidences that really freaked me out. There’s one where I was standing in the barracks hallway, I was standing with my back, I guess, towards my door, he was standing in the middle of between me and then like my group of friends, and he said something weird. He was like, I can control people’s minds. And I was just like, this is a very uncomfortable conversation. He was like I can control the men that are standing on the other side, and they won’t cross past me to get to you. And I was like, okay, this is very weird. And in the following days, he would corner me in my barracks room, like, Come into my barracks room ends, it’s like for me up against the wall, and like, kiss me and grope me and stuff like that. And I finally had enough of it. So I told my roommate, who then, we told our sergeant, I guess, and brought it up to the chain of command. And I, our Gunny, came up to me one day, and was like, so what do you want to do about this? And I was like, “Well, I don’t know. What are my options?” He’s like, “Well, I don’t really know. I can move you out of your barracks room that you’re now and I can put you on the first floor.” And I asked if my roommate could come with me? And he said, No, I was like, Well, I don’t want to be on first floor in a barracks room by myself. Like, that doesn’t seem secure. And then I asked him the question, I was, like, “Am I going to get in trouble for what happened?” And he was just like, “I don’t know.” So it made me not want to pursue anything anymore. Like, just leave it at that. And after that conversation with him, I just completely spiraled as a person. My foundation, myself was completely diminished. And I just became this person that I just didn’t really like. And with my history of like, past sexual abuse, and stuff like that, and then being taken advantage of all the way up until this point. I dissociated a lot From what I was like feeling. I wanted to feel happiness and something positive, but I was just feeling like a lot of pain. And I just became this person I didn’t like, and my mindset became, I didn’t own my body. That like my body was whoever wanted it. And it just led me down this path of just like being with people I didn’t want to be with, but it was better to offer myself or feel like I was offering myself rather than them taking it from me. And my chain of command just didn’t understand why I was just so out of control that I wasn’t even at my office a year. They just removed me, they kicked me out, they put me on a completely different base in a completely different office. And they’re just like, you can stay there like we don’t want to deal with you anymore. And I stayed in that other office of the Security Management Office for like a year and I absolutely loved it. I felt at ease. I felt comfortable there because it was just a corporal and another Lance Corporal and myself and a Gunny. And they took care of me there. And then my office fought to have me back and it was just a nightmare. And then I got to Camp Lejeune June in 2013. And I was just a very disgruntled individual. I was belligerent. I didn’t care to follow orders, I didn’t care to listen my chain of command. I did whatever I wanted, and they still didn’t know how to control me or like, why was the way it was. Because no one ever sat down and asked me or like, had the conversation. And then I think like two months before I was getting out, I finally went to mental health. And just like talked about everything,
Marissa: Thank you very much for your honesty, and you’re so strong to be able to talk about this. And, I’m looking at you and you have such a straight confident face. And I’m like, in awe of you honestly. You have dealt with so much. And from every step of the way. And I was I was taking notes as fast as I could. It was like so interested in what happened next? I mean, God, could it get worse? And then it did. And so I have a lot of follow up questions, feel free to tell me to shut up, I want to go back to the recruiter. Because I mean, that’s horrendous. And actually, I’ve heard that way, too many times. And the guy who harassed me, after he was in a HHC, in the Army, and then they moved him. After two more reports after me, I was his seventh report. They had two more reports after me. They moved him to recruiting. And I’m like, that is hands down the dumbest move they could possibly do. I mean of all things, why would you put this person who is obviously a predator… I mean, he’s got the pattern. He’s got the actions, why would you put him in charge of people? So I would love if you would feel comfortable expanding on why you thought that? Why would have ruined your career before it started to have made a report about the sergeant?
Melissa: Like I knew what we were doing and how we were interacting was wrong. And I knew it was wrong because either before or after we had happened, he no longer was my recruiter. There were three of them in the office. There was File Martin, and Arnold and I was under File, when I first got recruited. And I was talking to him. And then it was either immediately before immediately after, he didn’t want me as his recruit anymore, or his poolee. So he switched me off to someone else. And looking back now, like that was kind of sketchy. Blake was very mad when I talked to him about it. That’s how I also knew something was wrong. And that, like, that things that were happening, were not right. And I didn’t have anyone within that office to talk to about it. I don’t know if it was a first sergeant or Master Sergeant that like ran that office. But like, there was no one to turn to. Yeah, just that feeling deep down knowing that, like things were wrong, I think is how I knew that it was going to be career ending.
Marissa: I think also, because they have so much control over your career. And the help you get and the contract you get. Like there’s just like you said, it’s an abuse of power, they have everything to hold over you. Right? And it’s, it’s a disadvantage to survivors, to not have access to resources, if something were to happen.
Melissa: I always make the twisted comment or the twisted humor comment because I have to laugh at that experience now that like, I didn’t get anything out of that experience. Like I could have at least gotten a PFC, you know, meritorious PFC out of that when I went to boot camp. Like I got literally nothing out of it, but like a traumatizing experience.
Marissa: Was there ever any harassment training?
Melissa: Yeah, In Okinawa, and Lejeune, when you’re when your stationed in your office, or wherever your unit. You do, you go through like sexual harassment training, you go through suicide training you you have all these annual trainings that you literally show up, don’t pay attention too, sign a roster, and then you go back to whatever you’re doing. Like no one pays attention to it. No one knows that they’re mandatory reporters really. My fellow marine that I told about the sexual harassment laughed in my face, and then went on about his life. He should have done something. I feel like I should have done something more in that situation. And I felt like I was failed in that moment. The Gunny that came up to me and asked me what I wanted to do in Okinawa. That shouldn’t have been put on me. He should have known the correct steps to take because he was the one teaching sexual harassment and all these trainings. It boggles me.
Marissa: Yeah, that’s disgusting. The person who’s supposed to be there to train you. I don’t know if he didn’t have any idea. Or if he just didn’t want to deal with it. I feel like the consensus is generally they just don’t want to do the paperwork. Because to them, it’s just another set of paperwork that they have to do.
Melissa: Yeah. And I was not well-liked within that Office to begin with. It comes down to I’m not a very good runner. And in the military, at least the Marine Corps, you have to run, like, everywhere, anywhere. So my PT skills automatically made me a shitty marine in their eyes. And I think from there, they just didn’t want to help me anymore.
Marissa: Were there any other women in your unit or on the bases with you?
Melissa: Yeah, there was a bunch of women in my office. I don’t know if any of them experienced anything. In Okinawa, I don’t know if anyone did, but I know in Camp Lejeune, I was sitting with one of my fellow Lance Corporals, and she gets a text message. And it says something like scandalous, like, “Hey sexy, how are you doing,” or whatever. And we didn’t know the number. So we went on to Google and Googled the number. And I found out it was literally the Staff Sergeant that was sitting behind her that was like texting her anonymously. And when I found out who it was, I went over to my other Staff Sergeant. I was like, “Hey, we have an issue.” And the Sergeant that was texting her got up and ran away. You know you’re doing something wrong and creepy, like you’ve got caught, now face it.
Marissa: The problem is there’s no accountability. So after the Gunny came to you and basically said the balls in your court, what do you want to do? I don’t know your options, you’re kind of gonna have to do the research yourself. Was there ever an investigation? Or did anyone ever, like touch back and at least check in to see if you were okay?
Melissa: No. I remember sitting in the office and they, all sergeants were like, huddled together doing something and they were all laughing with each other. And I felt disregarded and disrespected in that moment. And I remember talking to my roommate being like, how can they look at him and laugh with him when they know what he’s doing? And I guess that comment, got back to my Sergeant that I had initially reported to and she was like, well, he’s my fellow NCO. Like, I’m not going to shun him. And it’s like, you don’t have to shun him. But don’t act like you guys are best friends. I don’t know. Have to have some more respect for the person that just was completely violated in her own barracks.
Marissa: Right. I was talking to somebody, I’ve been working with a friend to talk to wrestlers that have been speaking out on the speak out movement. And one of the things that one of our co hosts said was, Why are people still booking these people? Why are people still like pretending like this didn’t happen. And they keep getting responses from Booker’s and managers and people saying, “Well, what do you want me to do not book them?” Yeah, that is exactly what we want you to do. Why are we rewarding people for bad behavior? You are abusing and violating people and abusing power to control and manipulate people. You don’t deserve to be surrounded by your peers laughing. Like you deserve to be behind bars.
Melissa: I completely agree. Yeah, it just makes you feel so invisible.
Marissa: So then what did you do? You said that you went and spoke to the mental health area of the Marines. What helped you heal from all of this?
Melissa: Oh, it took a very long time. I was so angry and disgruntled when I got out that like, whoever slighted me in like the simplest ways, I lashed out, left and right. I just actually started going to therapy about three months ago. It also helps that I’m becoming a, like, I’m in graduate school to become a mental health counselor. So I’m understanding people’s behaviors now. And I’m understanding like my healing process.
Marissa: That’s incredible. Thank you for doing that. And for taking something that was so horrible for you, and turning it into a positive. You have the power and capacity to understand and help so many people, and empathize with them, which is a very new concept for survivors.
Melissa: Yeah, I can, it’s gonna be hard to empathize with the, you know, the people that commit the crime. But it’s going to be, you know, also hard to empathize with people that are victims, because it’s going to put me back and mentally into a place that I’m still trying to heal from. But I think I’m ready to like, go there again.
Marissa: Do you have a plan in case something triggers you? Or do you have any ideas of how to work through those triggers?
Melissa: Not yet, but I absolutely love my therapist, and he’s, I don’t know how to explain it. He’s giving me the freedom to like, you know, call him anytime or text him and be like, Hey, I’m having like a day, and he’ll be there. I think that’s right now my only resource in my only tool in my in my bag.
Marissa: Well, that’s incredible to have somebody like that. What advice would you give to other survivors of MST, military sexual trauma that are going through it now?
Melissa: Man, that’s a hard one. Because you want to say, push through and take the chance of like, you want your voice out there. I’m not going to say never, I’m not saying stay silent and by any means. But you just have to find that person that like you can completely trust to help you through this journey. And don’t doubt yourself. Because doubting yourself makes you isolated and lonely and then makes everyone else the enemy.
Marissa: There’s a great quote from Star Wars and I swear I’m not a nerd. And I don’t remember it exactly. But it’s like the bad people when we feel the most alone. When you doubt yourself, and you’re unconsciously isolating yourself from people, you’re doing yourself a disservice, and your community. And so you’re not alone. You’re never alone.
Melissa: Yeah, yeah. It’s hard to want to trust anyone in the military when they’re the ones you know, hurting you. It’s literally a domestic violence relationship you have with the military when you’re in those situations. You love it, you hate it, you get abused by it, you forget you were abused. And then just starts all over again.
Marissa: Wow, that’s really painful. Thank you so much for for everything that you shared. I mean, your your insights incredible. Your story is heart wrenching. And I’m so sorry that you dealt with that. But know that you have me as a resource. You have this community as a resource. You’re most certainly not alone. We have your back and you are so supportive and thank you for everything that you’re now doing for survivors to help them I think that’s amazing.
Melissa: Thank you.
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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