Healing From Emotional Abuse: IAmVanessaGuillen: Military Sexual Trauma Movement

Healing From Emotional Abuse: IAmVanessaGuillen: Military Sexual Trauma Movement

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.

Welcome back to Healing From Emotional Abuse. This was a big week for sexual assault and trafficking survivors around the country.  First, on Thursday morning, Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s girlfriend, recruiter and partner in assaulting hundreds of young women, was arrested in New Hampshire. To me, that means the FBI has finally compiled enough evidence to arrest his entire empire.  I can’t express how excited I am to watch that topple and burn to the ground.   Then, articles started surfacing about John Paul Doerr III, son of the top judge in Bucks County, PA —Thomas Doerr. He pled guilty to exploiting children through possessing and distributing a massive amount of child porn.  And he was basically let off with a slap on the wrist.  I would consider that arrest a slap on the wrist. This enraged community was making huge strides to resolve the problem of abusers and traffickers not being held accountable, and then this happened.  So, I’m calling all my listeners to make a stink about this.  This man should be in prison for 250 years — based on the amount of child pornography and the 45 felony charges against him.  Instead, he was given 5 years probation, six months of house arrest, and 15 years in the Megans Law registry… he’s only 34.  15 years is nothing.  He gets to restart his life at 50, but ruined the lives of many children… lives they’ll never get back.  We need to get this man off the street. 

Now that we’ve discussed some current events, I want to shift the focus to the military, and the corrupt, loose system that they have to deal with sexual assault predators and perpetrators.

With hashtag #IamVanessaGuillen trending, and the discovery of remains near Ft. Hood, I think it’s appropriate to address the persistent and rampant issue of sexual assault in the military. I want to start off by saying that I support the brave people who enlist to protect our country.  This is bigger than that.  This is a systemic issue from the top.  And it’s not a new issue.  In fact, it’s an issue that has been covered up and swept away by the military for longer than anyone cares to admit.  For a short period of time between January 2017-April 2018, I was a Contractor for the United States Army Reserve.  My role was to create an Employee Assistance Program, where I would work one-on-one with military members who faced adult life issues, ranging anywhere from substance abuse to suicide, to sexual assault and domestic violence.  In that time, I built the biggest program in the army, with over 200 service members either reaching out or enrolling in my program.   I’m not saying that to brag.  I bring that up because, in a down trace  of over 14,000 people, only 200 of them felt comfortable reaching out for mental health.  And when I came forward and reported a situation that I had been experiencing, my contract mysteriously and suddenly ended, with less than a days notice.

The military has an unhealthy way of demeaning mental health as a weakness, and criticizes the people that reach out for help.  Instead, they tell service members to Unfuck Themselves, and just get over it.   In 14 months, I spoke to over 100 people that were abusing substances, another 50 that had disclosed suicidal ideations or attempted suicide, and a ton who had survived domestic violence, and endured sexual assault.  The reported sexual assault and domestic violence numbers were scary low.  Like, under 20 people. But the people who disclosed to me outside of the reporting system, was astronomical.

The way the military works is, if you’ve been sexually assaulted, you have two reporting options.  If you disclose your assault to anyone besides the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or SARC, or Victim Advocate, it supposedly sparks a loud, public, open investigation.  If you disclose your assault to a SARC, you can opt for a restricted report, which means only the SARC will hear about it, and it will not open an investigation.  Or you can choose to make an unrestricted report, which theoretically SHOULD open a full criminal investigation…. AGAINST THE ACCUSED. However, it is at the commander of the bases discretion whether or not they choose to open an investigation, even if you make an unrestricted report and ask for an investigation.

I can only speak from my experiences.  What I learned while working for the Army, and what I observed as far as “protocols’ went, and what I endured.  My experience is nowhere near as tragic as Vanessa Guillen, and I don’t aim to compare.  All of the people coming forward, speaking their truth about their horrible experiences with the military should be greeted with an open mind, kindness, and support.  Most service members stay silent because it is career-ending to report abuse.  They get PCS’ed (transferred), retaliated against, blamed, and labeled unpromoteable “problem soldiers”.  The abusers on the other hand, get promoted, “counseled” in a private meeting where they get a slap on the wrist (not unlike Brock Turner), and maybe transferred with no additional repercussions.

Retired Major General Shadley, a wise man, advocate, colleague, and future guest on Breaking Through Our Silence with his amazing survivor wife Camilla, wrote in his book that you’re more likely to get promoted for raping someone, than reporting being raped in the military.  Think about that for a second.  Someone commits a violent crime, recognized by the FBI as the second most violent crime next to homicide, and instead of being held accountable, they are rewarded??  Maybe I’m alone in this, but that doesn’t add up to me.  What other crime can you commit that hurts somebody else and be rewarded for it? Or not be held accountable for it?  Literally none. You break into someones house and steal something, you’re arrested.  You rob someone? You punch somebody in the face, you’re arrested. You start a fight in a bar, you’re arrested. But you can rape somebody or abuse somebody and get counseled, promoted and transferred? Are you kidding me? 

While working at the Parkhurst Reserve Center under the 416th TEC, it was my job to befriend service members and provide them with mental health in whichever areas they needed.  For this reason, and my sparkling personality, I became friendly with a lot of people on the base. I would spend lunch working out with them, we would compete in fun, gym-related competitions, play competitive scrabble, and throughout the day, I would be seen walking around, hanging out in different rooms, talking with people and building rapport.  It was a part of the job, but also, a fun way to make the workday less mundane.

One of the service members, whose name I won’t disclose for legal reasons, not that i’m trying to protect him, took advantage of the situation.  He knew that my role was to help, and so he created reasons to come to my desk and request time almost daily.  We developed a friendship, and would casually chat throughout the day.  But what started as innocent friendship, quickly became an abuse of a good-natured program. 

He initially started the professional relationship speaking about marital issues.  He was considering a divorce from his wife because he was unhappy.  He would explicitly describe sexual encounters that made me extremely uncomfortable, and follow it up with all the things that he would do for her sexually, if only she would return the favor.  That alone is such a violation of the professional boundaries that I set.  But I wanted to remain professional, and felt that if I cut him off, then everyone on this small base who knew him for far longer than they knew me, would feel uncomfortable speaking with me — which I didn’t want.  So, I asked him to stop speaking so vividly about that, and tried to focus on resolutions.

Then, through mutual friends on the base, he found my Facebook.  He proceeded to message me while at work, and after, until late at night, even if I didn’t respond.  He would comment about the things he would do to me “if we were both single” which neither of us were.  And I would ignore him, or ask him not to say things like that.  He would get angry and throw a hissy fit, try to gaslight me into feeling guilty for calling him out, then continue the conversation like it never happened.

Sometimes, I would open my phone for 15-20 messages, unanswered, not responded to, and unprovoked.

I felt stuck.  On one hand, I hoped that working with him would allow other people on the base to feel comfortable talking to me.  But on the other hand, I wanted to end any contact with him, because it was an annoyance.  So, one day, I requested to meet his wife.  I figured that if I met his wife, he would feel uncomfortable making advances and crude statements.  I was quickly proven wrong, because he started to constantly bring up having a three-some.

The final straw for me was when he began to text me, calling out things I was doing, that I hadn’t mentioned to him.  As if he was watching me through my phone camera or my window.   One day, he told me that the pillow I was laying on looked so comfortable.  That was unprovoked, and I hadn’t mentioned that I was in my bed or laying on a pillow.  I hadn’t said anything at all.  Other times he would mention that the food I was preparing looked delicious.  And I became paranoid that he was watching me through my phone camera.  So I tapped a piece of paper over it. 

I finally spoke up to a victim advocate on my base, and eventually made a report to the commander, who initially, didn’t take it lightly.  She immediately said she would “counsel” him, which meant she would give him a stern talking to.  I showed her hundreds of messages from him that were abusive, manipulative, gross, and violating.  I requested a 15-6, which means a full criminal investigation, and she immediately denied me.  Days later, he was still working happily, with no repercussions.  No consequences.  The only thing he wasn’t allowed to do was contact me or walk into my cubicle.  So instead, he would threateningly walk past my cubicle 8 or time times per hour and just glare at me.  Less than a week later, I was told I was no longer allowed in 5 of the rooms in the base, two of which, I had people that I was working with in.  Why was I the one that was limited to certain areas in the base, and not the man that had been harassing me for almost a year?

I went to two police stations to make reports, because I realized that the military did not have my best interest. One in the town where the military base was, and one where I lived.  Neither of them made a report, even though I requested it, because it was “out of their jurisdiction.”  Each police stations said it was the others responsibility.  That’s when I knew I was truly alone.  I reached out to my contracting company and made a report with their HR.  I reached out to the EO in the Military and made a report.  I reached out to USARC, which the U.S. Army Reserve, overarching community, and reached out to their HR.  I reached out to IG and made a report. And nothing came of it.

The word got around, very quickly, that I made a report, and I became, essentially, an outcast.  A lot of the men on base wouldn’t even say hello to me anymore.  It really sucked.

Then, I was approached by another female civilian, who informed me that I had been this mans 7th harassment report. 7 times in 10 years, this man had harassed, abused, stalked or sexually threatened a woman, and been given nothing more than a stern talking to, then transferred.  Only a few years prior to my report was this man detained for stalking a woman from Illinois to Georgia because she left him to go back to her husband.  He threatened to kill her, kill himself and make sure to write on his body that it was her fault.  She PCSed — intentionally transferred to Georgia just to get away from him.  That scared me so much, that he was going to stalk me 40 minutes away from where we worked, because he jumped on a plane and flew several states over to stalk somebody.  Out of fear, and the need to protect myself and my house, I applied for a FOID card (Firearm Owners ID), just to make sure I was safe.  I had a knife with me in my car, in my purse, under my bed, and in every room in my house, just in case he showed up one day.

You know what happened to this disgusting man?  After my contract ended, he harassed or abused two more women in the 416th TEC, and then was promoted to Staff Sgt, and moved to recruiting.  What better way to protect an offender than moving him to a place where he LITERALLY HOLDS FULL CONTROL OVER YOUNG PEOPLES CAREERS AND FUTURES?  How upsetting is that?  They literally rewarded him for being a disgusting pig, by giving him ultimate power to determine peoples futures.

The military has a history of mishandling assault because the soldiers that are affected face retaliation, backlash, being ostracized, and being labeled “unfit to serve”.  So they just sit pretty until their contract ends. The whole system needs a reboot.  But how?  How can we change the way it’s handled in a more survivor-friendly way? 

Think about that. 

In the coming weeks, I have several episodes of survivors of military sexual trauma (MST) coming forward and speaking about what they’ve endured.  I have retired SARC’s, retired Generals, and other people that just want to speak out about how military sexual trauma MST has affected them and what happened.  So, stay tuned and keep checking back for these stories.  Thank you for listening today and thank you for listening to my story.  This is a topic that’s close to my heart. I dont’ want to ever hear about anymore Vanessa Guillen’s, because I don’t want it to ever happen again.  It’s disgusting that had her family not made a gigantic stink on social media about what happened to their daughter and why she was missing, I can assure you, her remains never would have been found. Stay tuned for more episodes from Healing From Emotional Abuse, and especially more episodes about Military Sexual Trauma MST. 

If anyone you know is struggling to overcome or heal from their emotional trauma…

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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