Healing From Emotional Abuse: MST Military Sexual Trauma Movement: with Sherry Yetter

Healing From Emotional Abuse: MST Military Sexual Trauma Movement: with Sherry Yetter
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

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. Today we’re continuing our chat about military sexual trauma and talking with the victims who have been affected by the IAmVanessaGuillen conversation and have experienced military sexual trauma. So today, I’m really honored to bring on Sherry Yetter. Sherry Yetter is a military spouse. She has a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University is a military sexual misconduct subject matter expert, a credentialed Military Sexual Assault Response coordinator, and a victim advocate, and a survivor of sexual assault, military sexual harassment, MST, military sexual trauma, and retaliation. Sherry was a victim of military sexual harassment and public retaliation by a general officer while employed as a Sexual Assault Response coordinator for the military. She’s still waiting for them to do better. Sherry and her husband, a senior marine officer currently reside in Virginia. Thank you so much for being here, Sherry. Wow, you are about as involved in the sexual assault world as I am.

Sherry: Yes, one could definitely say that I bring a unique perspective to everything that is sexual harassment and military sexual trauma in in the military, just because of my training, education and experience. And then, of course, being a spouse. So…

Marissa: Wow. Well, thank you for your service to survivors. You are incredible. And I’m so excited to talk to you more about this.

Sherry: Oh, well, thank you for having me on the podcast. This is actually my very first podcast. So, I’m kind of nervous, but I’m ready to go as well, because it’s important. Everything that we’ve learned from Vanessa Guillen’s case, over the past few weeks, and unfortunately, two months, it has just been heartbreaking. And it has reminded me of my commitment to helping other survivors learn the power of their voices, and hopefully bringing all of us together so that our collective voices will be heard and change will happen.

Marissa: Yes! The more people that we can get to speak up, the more likely you are to make a change. We have to put pressure on the system, and you’re doing a phenomenal job doing that. So, thank you so much.

Sherry: It’s my pleasure.

Marissa: Would you mind telling us a little bit about what you experienced while working for the military?

Sherry: Oh, gosh, how much time do we have, Marissa? The reason I see that I kind of joke about it is because you’re going into our eighth year of the fight for justice. I was originally a sexually harassed by a marine officer, who was my supervisor, back in 2013. He left in 2014. I quite unexpectedly, I was transitioning to a new billet and new job. So, I didn’t really care that he was going, you know, I felt like I had, handled the situation at the time to the best of my ability. I hadn’t been able to file a report. I had been discouraged from doing so by another supervisor that I had at the time, because I was a newbie working for the Marine Corps. I was still within my probationary period. And so, I took what they said to heart, even though I had years of experience in other areas with other branches of service. This was my dream job. And I really wanted to do a great job helping Marines and families. So, when that other supervisor told me, “Well, you know, do you really want to do that? Because once you ring that bell, it can’t be unrung. And, you know, not only could your career be impacted your husband’s career as well.” So here I was a new employee, and I’d already been sexually harassed. Another supervisor tells me, you know, don’t ring that bell because your husband’s careers is being threatened now as well. So, I didn’t, and I continued working in a very hostile work environment. And slowly I became aware that I was not the only victim of this marine officer.

Marissa: Wow. Okay. So, by speaking up, you connected with Other people who have been harassed by the same person?

Sherry: Well, yes and no. And the only people who knew that I had spoke up initially, were one, the supervisor that harassed me, and to my other supervisor, who is the one who discouraged me from going forward. My colleagues, my co workers, no one else knew, I couldn’t even tell my husband what had happened at that time. In fact, I didn’t tell him for almost another two and a half years or so. So, the way that I became aware was just the powers of observation. And then after he left slowly, after the officer that had sexually harassed me, after he left the building, I slowly began to get to know other individuals. And I could pick up on the signs, and we built trust, collaborative trust. And eventually it just kind of came out. So that’s how I learned.

Marissa: Wow. So, I want to focus on that for a minute. Because I think that’s so huge, that nobody really ever talks about it, are serial abusers. Right? People who abuse more than one person and they keep doing it, because they don’t face any consequences or repercussions for their actions?

Sherry: Absolutely. This individual exhibited the standard predatorial grooming behaviors. This wasn’t the first time he had done this. And I knew that. I had years and years of experience in working in male dominated industries. So, this wasn’t my first trip to the rodeo, so to speak, when he did what he did. And I would love to go into more detail. But unfortunately, some of this is still at a federal investigation and legal arena. So, I don’t want to stay anything that’s going to get me into trouble with that. And but what I can’t talk about is that my experience and what happened with that. When he did what he did, and he sexually harassed me, there’s no doubt about that one, I handled it the way that I had always handled inappropriate behaviors and phrases, or the way that that men would talk to me. At one point in my career, I have worked with used car salesman.

Marissa: I know what you mean.

Sherry: He was the used car salesman that I’ve worked with, and I worked with them all over the country, I was a trainer, and I would visit them in their spaces, not mine. Their spaces, I never once felt threatened by them. I was never sexually harassed by them in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. The way that this marine officer sexually harassed me, there was a clear difference in the intent of what he was trying to accomplish. Somebody saying to me, “Well, hey, you know what, you look really nice today.” Well, thank you. I appreciate that. There’s a big difference between that and the intent behind someone who is deliberately trying to harm you and it was apparent. So, me being the farm girl from Iowa, what did I do when this marine officer said something to me? And then demonstrated is, shall I say, affection in a very physical way? I just I handled it. I was more afraid the first time that it happened. I didn’t want to embarrass him. Because I thought, well, maybe it’s just a male physical reaction that he just couldn’t control. I don’t know… I’m not a guy. I don’t have those body parts. So, I don’t know if they can control it or not. But the second time, literally the same things happen again, I knew that the first time definitely had not been an accident, per se. And I just said a few choice words, about him probably needing to meet my husband and I got up and walked away. I had handled it. In my mind, I handled it, which is what a lot of other women or other victims of sexual harassment do is that we just we handle it. And we go on.

Marissa: Right? No, you’re totally right. And even if the problem isn’t resolved, we don’t speak about it and get that person in trouble. Like you said before your job was threatened. Your husband’s job was threatened. It was almost like a threat on your reputation, and then you’d have the whole Marine Corps to answer to and that’s not safe for you. So, what you did, was that in your mind at that point, the safe option, right?

Sherry: Absolutely, I did, I took the safest option. Then it wasn’t until later, as I was going through my training to become a credentialed Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, SARC, that I realized that yes, I had handled it the best way that I could at the time, but that I had done a disservice to my sisters, the other civilian Marines, the other Marines in the building, anyone else who could have potentially been a victim of this individual. And that’s when I decided to step forward no matter what, and bring light to what this individual had done. Little did I know that it would be such a long process for justice, that I would have to fight each and every step of the way. But I’m not going to give up I’m not going to go away, and I won’t be silent. I just want to help other victims, find their own voices.

Marissa: I love your spirit. And I love your attitude, because what you’re enduring, and I’ll come back to talking about this legal or asking you rather about this legal process, because I’m sure it’s horrendous, and back and forth, and the bureaucracy is crap. But there are two things I want to talk about, before we get to that. The first thing is, I want to go back to him being a serial abuser, because I forget what the hunting ground said. But they said 9% of males are perpetrators, which is a very low number. But of that 9%, like 86% of them will harass or assault six or more people. So, I feel like I haven’t had a chance to ever really focus on that. And I’d love to talk to you because you have so much experience with a serial abuser. I’d love to just pick your brain about that. Is that cool?

Sherry: Oh, absolutely. It’s funny that you would mention those particular statistics. Because in my building, just on the Marine Corps Base that we worked on, I know that there were at least four victims by the same marine officer, two of which came forward, myself and another person, and then two others that I know of that have remained silent, but still supportive. And I respect their decisions to protect their anonymity. And I think a large part of that is because of what the other victim and I that did come forward have experienced with the Marine Corps. Clearly, this was not his first time doing this. This wasn’t the first time that he took advantage of his perceived power, as a leader to sexually harass or groom or take advantage of the situation with 80 of the subordinates, or really anyone in his proximity.

Marissa: It’s disgusting. You know, I don’t know exactly what you went through. And I’m not going to ask for any further detail. But I get so upset, even though this is the field I work in, this is what I do for a living every day. It’s still like grosses me out so much that people like him, get away with this, you know, and that he can offend so many people because even if people speak up, you said you were fighting this for seven years now. I mean, this happened in 2013, And he still has not faced consequences, I imagine.

Sherry: Well, to an extent he has Yes. So, I could tell you, in generic terms, what he did, I could also direct you to Google, my name and Marine Corps and any number of articles are going to pop up because there was national coverage on my case, because of the fight that we’ve had to be heard. to have proper investigations done, which is a whole another podcast just all on its own. The accountability piece finally came in, believe it or not 2017 when he came back to work in the same building that I am one of the other victims were still working in. At that time, when he came back to our building, I was literally beside myself and so I pursued the formal charges against him utilizing the civilian employee EEO process. I had to fight to be heard. I had to fight to get the investigations done, and I kept getting ignored. Literally ignored. It took a really long time to tell you through all of the things that happened in between. But finally came to head in 2018 when I reached out to the USA Today, and they did a story or did articles on what I and the other victim that had come forward had experienced with this individual. That then cause the Commandant of the Marine Corps to order another investigation. But this time I think they took it a lot more seriously because they brought in a department of justice attorney, who also happened to be a marine reservist, he was a Colonel, and he conducted the most thorough investigation that we had been a part of, Thus far. All the other investigations have been very shoddy. But the results of this led to, in the Marine Corps, what they call a board of inquiry. And that is an administrative function where the board can, board consists of three members, and those individuals can determine whether or not the Marine Corps retains this individual, or whether they in layman’s term, So, my favorite words to say right now is, they kick them out. It was determined that he was guilty. And they stated that they were going to kick him out. The sad part is that most of the branches of service, once an individual is found guilty of whatever charges it is that they face, he faced three different types of charges. Two out of the three he was found guilty on but they said he was going to be forcibly retired was the punishment. It took them 18 months before he was off the base. Before he was retired. Another 18 months. So, when I say legally was, he held responsible? I had mixed feelings about that. The man retired with the full benefits and a full retirement.

Marissa: And I’m sure it was honorable. It wasn’t dishonorable or medical, which is I mean, he didn’t even deserve medical. He wasn’t dishonorably discharged, even though he was found guilty for harassment. I don’t mean to laugh, but like, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. If he had murdered someone or I don’t know stolen an extra, you know meal, then maybe he would have been dishonorably discharged. But then he could be found guilty on a panel by military personnel and still be on base for 18 months and retire with everything. I just… you and I are going to have a proper investigation podcast if that’s okay with you.

Sherry: It just the investigation, the final investigation that happened was key. It is the one that led to that small part of justice that I feel. Because he had, what I hadn’t mentioned before is that, this individual had been selected for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. This individual had also been selected for command, this individual was going to be leading a command that was full of the vulnerable population, before they even got into the military. I just couldn’t let that happen. Not knowing what I did.

Marissa: That’s amazing how strong and brave and courageous you are for taking that on. I mean, think about it. He clearly has the Marine Corps in the palm of his hand. They’ve been letting him get away with this behavior for so long. And there’s no way that not a single person on the base before you either experienced it or noticed something weird about him. Like we give off energy. And people feel that weirdness from people you know. You get the creeps from people that you don’t talk to, there’s not a chance in hell, that this guy didn’t give off some creepy-weird vibe or like set somebody off. And yet he still was up for Lieutenant Colonel which is a huge power position. And there’s a ton of people underneath you and on top of that commander of the base. I mean, that’s sick.

Sherry: Right commander of a base but he was going to be commander of a military entrance processing station. So, all of those individuals looking to go into the service would have been passing through his command.

Marissa: That’s literally what happened to me with my harasser. He harassed me, two people after me, and then they moved him to recruiting. So, he couldn’t go prey on the vulnerable, the most vulnerable population. I don’t get it.

Sherry: Absolutely. And that’s what I should have said, the most vulnerable population. I’m sorry, I was laughing when you were talking about the creepy behaviors, because that’s what I said about him, is that his behaviors were just they were creepy. When I was initially trying to describe them, that that’s the part of predators and their behaviors. When somebody makes you uncomfortable, because they’re invading your space, you can tell the difference between someone who just doesn’t understand personal space, and then somebody who is just being creepy. And that’s the way his behaviors were.

Marissa: You’re right, there’s a very big difference between someone who doesn’t understand space and personal bubbles, and someone who’s doing it to assert dominance. And that’s what it seems like he was doing. And anyone else who is an abuser, they will also use that tactic, because it makes you feel almost like submissive and them feel dominant.

Sherry: Absolutely, he had a behavior where he would come and stand directly behind your chair in our cubicle space. Literally directly behind you so that when you turn to acknowledge him, like, why are you standing there, you would have to turn and then lift your head up, so that you could look him in the face instead of looking him in areas that you probably didn’t want to look at.

Marissa: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh. It’s just, I mean, I get it, I totally get it. So, I also wanted to go back and talk about your response. Because I never want anyone to feel like they have to justify, you know, well, this is what I did in the moment because it felt right. But now I feel bad. There are five immediate responses, right? There’s fight flight, freeze toxic immobility, and fawn. And any of those responses is your brain’s immediate reaction to keep you safe in the moment.

Sherry: I absolutely agree. And I would never criticize anyone who makes any one of those decisions. I think that by going through the training that I did, in the SAPR world, in the SHARP world, I was learning that there were other things that I could have done. And when I say I felt bad, I did, I felt that I had potentially let others down on, I don’t blame myself for that I did what I had to do at the time. But I think that it opened up my eyes, so to speak, in that I needed to be a part of that change. And I needed to assist others other victims by empowering them to step forward by sharing my own story. Little did I know that it would last for as long as it has. And I would end up being retaliated against multiple times. My favorite was by a general officer. But it’s that we can’t make this stuff up that has happened as part of this process. I mean, I love to write. And I would like to think that I’m creative, but I have nothing on these individuals that have done what they have done in order to either protect the institution that is the Marine Corps, or to protect the marine because, well, you know, they’re a Marine, right? So, we have to protect them.

Marissa: I appreciate you saying all that, to tell us a little bit about what’s been happening for the last seven years, you don’t have to go into detail. I’m sure that you’re not even allowed to go into detail. But the amount of work and the amount of backlash that you get fighting for justice after an assault on the civilian side, is like an average of four years and you have to retell your story 1000 times. What’s it like on the military side, because I can only imagine it being so much more difficult.

Sherry: On the military side, it is more difficult because you have to balance the military side and the civilian side. So, if your offender is military, it just adds in other layers of complexity to determining what are the right steps. And then as a civilian employee, it’s not the normal response time that you have. We only have 45 days as a government employee to file a sexual harassment complaint against someone. You may be months into figuring out that you are even being sexually harassed. So, a lot of times your 45-day window is long gone.

Marissa: That’s a really dumb rule. And I get it because they want to protect their own. And they also don’t understand why people don’t speak up right away. There’s that negative connotation of mental health in the military that’s still very 1950s. So, like, I understand that, but can you expand a little bit on it?

Sherry: Sure. So, this is exactly why I have shared my story. I’m beginning to share more and more of my story. What happened to me happened over a period of time, it was complicated. I had training in this area, I had experienced sexual harassment and sexual assault before, but I was not immune to experiencing it again, this time with a military offender. For those junior enlisted or junior officers. They’re very new in their careers, and they are even more afraid than I was to come forward and potentially harm their careers. So, what do they do? They don’t say anything, they deal with it on their own as best they can. Or they just as we say, in the military, we compartmentalize. We just put it away, we don’t deal with it. And then the individual, the offender goes on to get exponentially more powerful in their own beliefs that, hey, I can do this. I did this before I can do it again. And the process itself for the military personnel, because it is a commander-led program, it gets very complicated. Those individuals with military personnel first have to have trust, faith, and confidence in their command leadership, that they’re going to do the right thing. And sometimes they walk in and they’re thinking, Man, this command is going to be just right there with me, and they’re going to be supportive. And that’s when they get the questions like, why were you there? Why were you drinking? What were you wearing? These are questions that these victims still get asked. And it’s ridiculous. And then people wonder why the victims don’t come forward. Whether it’s sexual harassment; whether it’s sexual assault; whether it’s hazing; whether it’s bullying; whether it’s retaliation. I don’t wonder why I know exactly why people.

Marissa: Tell us about the retaliation. You said you were retaliated against by general officers?

Sherry: Oh, yes. Let’s go back to my bio, I worked as a Sexual Assault Response coordinator. So, I was attached to another division, where I oversaw the SAPR program for 5000+ Marines, civilian Marines and their families. But I was also operationally a part of the marine and Family Programs division. Well, the general officer in charge of that division, took it upon himself to publicly discuss the command investigation that had just been ordered by the Commandant of the Marine Corps in front of probably 150 individuals — I’m not exactly sure how many — of my colleagues and co-workers and peers, he decided to discuss the fact that there had been USA Today articles about our cases, and that command investigation had been opened. But he decided to categorize our cases and our experiences as fake news and pardon my language, but, “Bullshit.”

Marissa: That’s disgusting. And that sounds like it would be a violation of some sort of right. I understand that when you make an investigation, it’s very public, but to go and spew that kind of slander. I mean, that just builds distrust against the SAPR program, which already is a very criticized program.

Sherry: Absolutely. Especially when you are the general officer in charge of the SAPR program for the entire Marine Corps. The message that was sent was very intimidating. It exacerbated an already hostile work environment for both myself and the other victim that had come forward. It became a complete nightmare for us, not that it hadn’t been before. But this took us to a whole new level. Ironically, the Commandant had just days before, had released a new order in the Marine Corps. That was the prohibited activities and conduct order — that describes behaviors that Marines and civilian marines were not to do. Of which retaliation is one of them. This general officer when the investigation began on what he had done, what he had said, basically stated, “well, you know, I’m known for my frat boy humor locker room talk and I hadn’t even read the New Order yet that the commandant had released.” If you’re a general officer, one of the first things that you should do is when the commandant releases a critical order for all Marines, and you lead the SAPR program, you ought to read the word anyway. No, he didn’t. So, he ended up being relieved of command. There was no explanation as to what he was relieved for. And then he was reassigned. He was a brigadier general at the time, he was reassigned to another command, not within the building. And then he was allowed to very quietly retire two years later, again, with full benefits. He was not held accountable.

Marissa: None of these guys are. You can’t see me right now. But I rolled my eyes a couple times at the shit that he was saying, and the fact that, “Oh, well, I you know, it’s like a boy’s club, locker room talk. I’m an inappropriate person.” If I go to work somewhere and my sense of humor is a little inappropriate, I don’t act that way. At work, there’s an element of professionalism, that he seemed to be lacking. And I think it’s disgusting that he was a brigadier general allowed to go in, “Locker room talk.” It’s repulsive.

Sherry: I agree, it is very repulsive. But then there was another element to this where this individual as a civil officer was standing in front of the division, essentially, giving his speech to a roomful of other leaders to include an SES, the chief of staff, the Sergeant Major other branch heads, what did they do? They did nothing. They didn’t intervene. They didn’t stop him. And so, by their silence, they conveyed to the other employees in that room that there was tacit approval for what he was saying. How was I supposed to feel safe in that building after that? I don’t know.

Marissa: The point was that you weren’t supposed to feel safe in that building. That was like a direct threat to you. Indirectly. That makes sense.

Sherry: Absolutely. So that’s where we are right now is with the retaliation piece is still moving forward. Even though the original harm was the sexual harassment, there have just been additional layers of ostracism, retaliation, and fighting to be believed in the investigations, and the lack of investigations, and the EEO process. And the agency Council for the Marine Corps behaviors, you know, by circling the wagons, so to speak to protect the institution. While, not taking care of the victims.

Marissa: I have a weird question for you.

Sherry: Marissa, there’s nothing weird. So, I haven’t heard so go right in it.

Marissa: If you could go back in time, to right before the investigation started. What do you do this all over again?

Sherry: Yes, I would do it again. But Wow, that’s a difficult question. I say yes. And I know I would. But if I knew, then all of the pain that I would go through, and the fight that it would take to get justice, it would be a lot harder to answer. Because it hasn’t just affected me. It’s affected my husband, his career, our children, my grandchildren. This has been going on for so long, and it has impacted, you know, pivotal moments in my children’s lives, that should have been very happy occasions. But ironically, something would always happen literally right before a key moment. Like the birth of a grandchild or my daughter’s wedding. Or you know, just going to pick out her wedding dress. Literally every single time those types of key moments were going to happen. Something happened literally seconds before the event, which of course, impacts me. It impacts them. Um, so it if I knew it was going to impact all of them so much, I don’t know that it would have. If I knew that it was going to take me to such a dark place in my own life, where I fully admit I was suicidal for quite a long time. I don’t know that I would do it.

Marissa: Thank you for disclosing that. You’ve probably heard this 1000 times, but you’re not alone. And you always have me, and this giant supportive community, at your disposal when you need us. If you ever feel that way, again, you can always count on us to catch you.

Sherry: It has taken me a long time to get to that point where I’m very, I’m very comfortable in my skin again. I don’t think I will go back to that depth. So now I’m going back and I’m just like, you know, remembering where I was, I could give a more resounding — Absolutely, yes! I would do this all over again, just simply because I don’t want anyone else to ever, ever, ever feel that level of pain and despair that I felt.

Marissa: Thank you for fighting for people and working with people.  But mostly, fighting to get the bad people out of power positions. I really appreciate it. And I’m sure a ton of people, you know, are very grateful for your effort, and the pain that you and your family have gone through. It’s not going unnoticed.

Sherry: Thank you. My goal is just to help anybody that I can.

Marissa: What does the military need to do or what needs to be done to change the protocol to be more victim-centered, more survivor centered?

Sherry: You know, to be honest, and to be fair, the SAPR programs that are in effect now, when they are run effectively, are done pretty well. Those committed individuals that haven’t been a SARC, there are really committed individuals out there doing their best to make sure that the victims are taken care of. Where I see the problems are with a commander-LEAD program. And commanders who don’t want to give up that level of power or oversight over a sexual assault case or a sexual harassment case. I think that the lack of accountability is the biggest issue in the military. They’re not holding the offenders accountable. They’re not being equitable in that accountability, when they do hold someone to the letter of the law, or the Uniform Code of Military Justice UCMJ. They need to get over that different spanks for different ranks mentality. And they need to stop thinking about, well, if we don’t report these numbers, or we can handle this in house, that we’re just making the service better. No, you’re not. You’re just perpetuating that continual systemic issue of sexual harassment in the ranks, and nothing will ever change. We have to begin with accountability, it has to begin individually And at the command level, there isn’t one person that can do it all for everyone. It just has to be come the new systemic norm.

Marissa: You’re completely right. I mean, one person can’t change the whole system, but one person can start the domino effect that does.

Sherry: Absolutely one of the things that I’ve always said, every time I gave my training, to the Marines or to civilians, I really say, folks, this is not rocket science. If it doesn’t belong to you, Don’t touch it. If you haven’t asked permission, don’t touch it. It has to begin with yourself. And you have to be the one to step up and say something when you see something that is wrong. I did that. I just didn’t expect it to be as painful and long as a process as this has been.

Marissa: I think that needs to change. I mean, I think that on top of accountability being the first step, I think it needs to also fall into place that the initial reaction shouldn’t be, “Well, what were you wearing? Or, you know, maybe they just got confused.” I wholeheartedly disagree. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten confused and accidentally touched somebody or gotten confused that maybe they’re no actually meant Yes. Like it’s never been a language barrier thing. It’s I’m off my soapbox now.

Sherry: Oh, no, I completely understand because being asked, are you sure it was them? Or you probably were just misinterpreting what they were saying or what they were trying to do. I’m sorry, how do you misinterpret some of these hand down your shirt or them having an erection in front of you? Or you being asked how much alcohol you had consumed, or why you were even there. None of those are relevant. The bottom line is, they didn’t Ask for consent. I’m not the problem here. The offender is.

Marissa: Yes, the offenders are the ones who always makes the choice to offend. They are the one who have the choice right or wrong. The ball is in their court. They choose the wrong decision, and with that choice that they made, not the survivor but the perpetrator, they should be held accountable. Because in kindergarten we learnt that there are consequences for every reaction but apparently when you are a powerful position in the military that lessen from 5 years going out the window.

Sherry: Absolutely. You have to play nice in the sandbox but you still have to ask for permission.  You still have to ask for consent. And when they don’t give it or when they are passed out, they are not giving you consent to do whatever it is that you want to do. Its not a hall pass per say you don’t need to do what you have to do just because you won’t get to do it like

Marissa: Exactly. Last question and then I promise I will let you go on with your day What advice would you give to survivors or do give to survivors that come to you? Or what’s the first thing you say to them?

Sherry: Well, the first thing I say to them is usually a question I ask them how are they doing? And they usually look at me like I’m crazy like I don’t know what I’m doing. But the reason why I ask that is for you to start thinking about how it is that they are responding to the situation. Then the second thing that I say to them is I thank them for trusting me with this information. Because as a survivor, as a victim myself I understand how important that rebuilding a trust with this individual, let alone somebody that you are sharing the most intimate of details with or the fact that you are sharing your vulnerability, essentially, with another person who knows personally how hard it is for you so you know so first I ask them how they are doing and make them think about it and then I say thank you for trusting me with your vulnerability. I’m not going to take advantage of that.

Marissa: That’s amazing and very helpful. And it’s really good for trust building especially with people who are vulnerable and feeling very violated. So thank you for doing that. Do you have any books or any pages that you would want to plug?

Sherry: I’m still working on a website and I’m starting to write more. So I have an article that I’m hoping to get publish soon in a major publication. And I’m also writing children’s books now about they are just like consent. How to ask those types of questions that we need to ask. About respect, and boundaries.  I’ll also tell you, since this is my first podcast, I am also starting to write my book about what I have experienced.  I don’t know when that will be able to come out, but there will be a book in my future.

Marissa: If you would like to coauthor on any of the, I would be honored to work with you.  Writing a children’s book has always been on my bucket list.

Sherry: I love the idea of collaboration with other victims and survivors. That are in the field. We have such a unique perspective on it.  If we can help one little boy or one little girl from never experiencing what we have… I always say on my tombstone, I want them to put, “Well, she tried.”

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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