Monday, June 25, 2012

The MST Questionairre

I mentioned last post that I was hosting psychology students this past weekend. (Waves, hi guys to those that stop back by!) 

Here is a bit more about them, and then the questionnaire that I promised to do and post here.

I had gotten this lovely note that said in part that they were graduate students in the Clinical Psychology doctoral program at the University of Houston. For one of their courses they had been asked to gain a better understanding of a specific group of individuals. This will help them in the future if they happen to conduct therapy with those individuals. This group wanted to try and understand more about the experiences of survivors of MST. There were 3 of them and they brought some yummy chocolate chip cookies for us. Yes.. chocolate helps with my PTSD, yanno, pleasurable feelings. Mmmmm!

Anyways.. here is the questions and answers:

 First, we truly appreciate your help. Through your openness and honesty about such a sensitive topic, you are helping to train future clinicians to be more aware of this issue. We understand that these questions may be difficult to answer. Please answer only the questions that you are comfortable answering. All of your responses will be kept anonymous and used for educational purposes only.

·         What are your opinions of the military's image as a "boys club?” That is exactly what it was, a boys club. And they all supported each other in whatever they were doing.  There were two types I found in the Navy, those that wanted to hurt and humiliate, and those that wanted to kick their asses. There were some wonderful men that I served with.  Men that would have lost their careers if they had known what was happening to me because they would  have wanted to retaliate.  It was MY choice to keep it to myself and just try to survive. 

·         Is there a female sub-culture within the military (a sense of community)? There was to some degree, but some of the women willingly participated in actives, other’s of us tried to resist.  I only told one person about the first attack, and it was only because she was gay and had a lot to lose if she told my secret.  But that bond became very strong, and all these decades later, we are still dear friend who can tell each other anything.  I don’t remember much camaraderie with other ladies when I was in much though.

·         Were there any particular concerns you had about being a woman in the military?  Not when I enlisted at 17.  My step dad was a Navy veteran, and I knew several of my male friends had gone into the different branches before I.  I never gave it a thought.  I expected to be just ‘one of the sailors’ and that was it.  My recruiter lied to me when he told me I was going to Journalism school.  I had no idea you had to get it in ‘writing’ for it to be true.  The first betrayal.

·         How does being a woman in the military fit into your view of femininity?  Well, when I enlisted I had long hair, and I chose to keep it that way through out my enlistment.  It gave me that feeling of being someone else after duty and allowed me to change persona after working hours.  In uniform, it was always up in a twist. I think I learned to be more male like to try and change what was happening to me, but it didn’t work.  I tried to be a sailor on duty, and a lady off.

·         How did your family respond to your decision to enlist They were very supportive and happy about it.  My step dad was in the Navy, and I had 30 days after high school graduation to “get out” he said, and at the time, I thought it would be safe, as it was peacetime. Uhhh.. about that?  Not so peaceful for the ladies..

Growing up, what gender roles did your family adhere to?   My mother was Lockheed’s first woman engineer, and she taught me to be very strong and not to rely on anyone else.  So I guess you could say, I didn’t have the typical late 50’s role model at all.  Both of my parents were engineers for Lockheed, and so was my step dad.  I hoped to have a career in the Navy and see the world. Pffffttt.
·         Were your expectations of your service prior to your sexual assault in line with the reality of serving in the military? I expected to go to journalism school, and then have a great job and career travelling the world. I hoped to be based with my fiancée’ and us serve together.  But the reality was, I was lied to by my recruiter, and then I was attacked and raped, and told I didn’t deserve to be in the Navy because I was a woman.  I did not expect the gender bashing.  I thought it was a PROFESSIONAL organization.  Instead, it was semi-professional, and was well run in some ways, but by a bunch of thugs at other times.
·         How does experiencing MST impact your opinion of your service? It tainted it and made it very ugly.  Not all of it, I have some wonderful memories.. and as I’ve said over and over, I’d still do it all again! And I met some great guys too.  Not all of them were butt heads. 

·         Do you have any regrets about your decision to enlist? No… only that I wish I’d known I had to get my school in writing, that I couldn’t trust a recruiter to be HONEST with me!!!!! And I wish the military would teach women a really good self defense class in boot camp. I think that would go a long ways to helping boost self confidence.
·         Please describe any emotional, physical, or mental difficulties you experienced after your trauma?  Hmmm, more like “where to start?”  Emotional.. much of the time I am a wreck. I have good and bad days.  It’s not good to just start crying in public.  There are many subjects I still can’t discuss without losing it all together.  Physical;.. well.. not being able to have kids is pretty big to me.  Having a knife scar on my breast is a reminder of what happened.  I have some bowel problems sometimes….I get a stomach pains and cramps.. I get the shakes, I get bad headaches sometimes.. my jaw where I was punched aches sometimes, and I’ve lost most of the teeth on the side to, the dentist says I have very severe TMJ because of the assault.   I have nightmares sometimes that wake me up.   I have panic attacks and have to run in the bathroom to calm down.  Most of these are a mix of the mental, physical and emotional all affecting me.  I am trying to learn to cope better.

·         How has surviving MST impacted your current/future relationships I believe, in looking back, that I made some serious mistakes in the sorts of relationships I had, based on what had happened to me, and what sort of sick relationship felt ‘right’ as opposed to being right.  My last marriage broke up within days of my breakdown, as I just couldn’t be around him anymore, and he couldn’t’ handle the drama of what had happened to me.  So I also lost my home.  And my work.   I am blessed to have a dear friend that has offered me a home for as long as I want. I just have to work on getting well.

·         Who did you first tell about the abuse? The first one I told anything too was Manya, on my second base.   She came home to find me rocking and crying and I only told her bits and pieces about it then.  After that, I didn’t tell many people.  
·         Would you mind briefly describing how the conversation went?   It’s been very difficult each time I have tried to talk about it.  But, it is getting easier and I am learning to incorporate that part of me into who I am in a more public manner, then the secrecy I’ve had all these years.

·         How did you feel after disclosing your abuse?  Much better! And I find I do feel better after talking about it. I guess it’s a sort of ‘desensitization’ that works to help make it easier. It’s still not easy, but it’s easier.

·         Is there a typical profile of abuser? Men who are into power.  For whatever reason, who knows what drives them.  But it was certainly more about power then sex.

·         Are certain individuals (age, ethnicity, sex, etc.) more likely to perpetrate abuse than others?  Not that I noticed.  Although in my case, all four men were older and higher ranking. 

·         Are certain individuals (age, ethnicity, sex, etc.) more likely to be victimized by abuse than othersIt was mentioned by a couple of my attackers, that they went after younger women, and those that had just been transferred to the base so that there didn’t know their way around and didn’t have any friends yet.  After my first attack, I let myself become a continual victim I think. I was so afraid and hurt, that I found it easier to just comply.

·         How does MST affect your ability to serve alongside the abuser? Well, it’s like hell.  They are always there, smirking at you, making motions, letting you know that they are going to get you again and again.  Well, at least in my  case it was that way.  Sick to my stomach a lot, and rage, I really had dreams of doing terrible things to get back at them.

·         Why is it that often victims of MST will not disclose being abused unless overtly asked about it? Because there is so much danger involved. And embarrassment.. even if you ask most would deny it.  I was threatened with not just my bodily harm, but those that I loved would get set up if I did not co-operate.  That was also a reason I didn’t tell some folks who would have been strong defenders.  I didn’t want them to get angry and perhaps do something and then they would be in jail and lose their careers.  There are so many reasons!!!

·         Is there information to suggest that experiencing sexual trauma in the military is different than those who experience it in the civilian community? Well, from my perspective, yes.  Because you become military property and you have to follow their rules.  You can’t just not report for work. You can’t run away.  You can’t go to just ‘any‘ medical facility.  In a civilian job, if a boss raped you, there would be all SORTs of avenues.  But in the military, there are none but to do what they tell you, as they tell you and to shut up and take it like a man.

·         Is there differential treatment/stereotypes for those who experience MST within the military? I don’t know for sure about this, I only know what I experienced.  It seems to be pretty much the same.  Person gets attacked at some point, sometimes black mailed or just bullied and controlled into it.  I knew others but I didn’t talk to them about it, or my experiences at all. 

·         How is MST viewed within the military?   As a whiner and a baby and NOT a team player. Everyone would know and it was most always the woman’s fault for whatever justified reason.  Most folks didn’t talk about it much, except for the gays who were open game back then.  My friend Manya was attacked, raped and harassed the whole time.  It was considered their ‘penalty’ for going in the military in the first place. But they loved their country just as much as we did, even more to go in knowing you’d face that.

·         In your opinion, has the military addressed the problem of MST adequately?  Please excuse me while I snort.  Noooo.. not remotely.  I firmly believe that it will take a roots up change in the military.  A real zero tolerance. Move the perpetrator, not the VICTIM for God’s sake!!!!!  I think the STOP act would go a long way towards taking these decisions out of the Commanders hands.  I mean, the guy doing the raping may be the guy who saved his life and he can’t, no one could turn that friend in if they didn’t have to.  There is too much conflict of interest in this to let it stay as it is!

·         Are there any reasons you would be hesitant to seek treatmentIf I was in the service, yes,  Because if it came out, the way it’s handled now, would be a stain and a disgrace.  If civilian now, no. I would get to a Vet Center as fast as I could, and a VA mental health clinic too. 

·          Would you be more open to seeking civilian or military treatment? I can’t help but prefer a veteran, at least a woman, because there is a feeling of being trapped to me that I felt while I was in the service that I just don’t think a civilian can fully understand. But, I would take a female over any male. And my current doc is a civilian, and she’s taught me some wonderful things.  So in the end, whoever God sends me (as long as they are kind and compassionate) then I’ll try to learn whatever they have to teach me.

·         Are you currently in treatment?   Yes, I go to a local Vet Center and have both individual and group therapy.   It has been remarkably rewarding to finally be in a group with other ladies who had some of the same experiences. .  

·         If so, how did you make the decision to enter treatment? I had a breakdown in Dec 2011 when I went to a VA to get some mental help for PTSD. I started out doing it for a friend, but then was caught up by how bad I had it too.   I didn’t realize I had as many symptoms as I did until I started treatment and now knew what the source of so many of my life’s problems has been.  I couldn’t work anymore as I worked with a disabled man, and it was just too much for me to handle anymore.  I had to quit after I almost abandoned him when he poked me, roared and barked at me.  He had figured out he could scare me.  

 ·         What are some barriers that might dissuade/prevent MST victims from seeking support or help while enlisted?  Well, the ridicule and being thrown out of the military is a good start.  Having your life destroyed before everyone else’s eyes. Yeah.. something like that.

·         What are some resources for MST victims? What are the most commonly utilized resources?  These are the one’s I am using so far, and I’ll keep adding to the list as I find, or other’s refer to me.

·         What advice would you give to others who have experienced trauma in the military as a result of being female?  Come forward.  Only when our voices come out of the shadows and unite can we clear the way for a cleansing and the generations to come.  It’s hard, it hurts.. and yes, it’s embarrassing.  But, to quote a friend, “It is, what it is.” And no one has to like it. WE didn’t like it!  If you can’t come forward, do your best to get help, to tell at least one other person you can confide in.  Getting it out helps.  And talking. Speaking out, even if it’s just leaving a comment on facebook in support of the cause.  It all helps. And it helps other’s too!

·         Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew before enlisting?  That the military is NOT a safe place, even with the brother’s in arms.  Especially with the brother’s in arms.  That until the culture changes, the danger is INSIDE the wire, not out.  To take a good self defense class.  To have friends to talk to.  To tell at least one other person and try to collect some sort of evidence for a later time.  To get everything in writing before going in. 

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