Betty’s Story

I was capable of doing my job in the army as a medical assistant until I was sexually assaulted by an officer on a date. I brought it to the attention of my company commander who handled the matter. I was asked if I wanted counseling but I declined. That was in the late 80’s.

I felt really sensitive to sexual remarks and innuendos from men in general. I was very humiliated and angry inside. I didn’t know it at the time but I developed post-traumatic stress disorder right there and then. I distrusted men and had problems with intimacy.

I did, somehow, married a Vietnam War veteran, fifteen years older, who was diagnosed with PTSD. He was taking the medication, Prozac. Living with someone like that was very difficult. He would self-medicate with marijuana and alcohol as well. A few times he would convince me to partake in bondage and whipping. I was in denial that I was in an abusive relationship. When I came to the realization that he was no good for me, I fled to live with my family and later ended the five-year marriage.

I had episodes of depression and became self-loathing. I drank a lot and it made me more vulnerable to men to take advantage of me. It was usually the bar or some dance club that I gravitate towards. I remembered once that I was raped in a strip club. That case was not reported to the police. I used to have nightmares of that scene.

My parents did not like my promiscuous behavior because I was with so many wrong men. I didn’t care about the consequences and eventually my mother threw me out of her home. I became homeless and I met others that are also outcasts. I had no female friends. I trusted no one.

While living in a homeless shelter I dated a man who later gave me a home. He helped me be seen by the staff at the VA clinic where I was treated for military sexual trauma. It was not easy for me to talk about it. After many therapy sessions I revealed that I had a second incident in the military where I was sexually assaulted by two other enlisted soldiers in my bedroom. I was tied, gagged and probed with a pool-stick. I never told anyone during that time. I can’t recall their names.

I often wondered if PTSD developed at the time I was having a gynecological exam for the army. The doctor said I was “immature” and laughed inappropriately during the inspection. He later asked if I had ever had sex and I lied and said “yes”. He said I was unfit to join. I was in pain for several days both physically and mentally. I was a virgin and was confused as to what I was supposed to do. Luckily, the recruiter coached me to pass the psychological exam to gain entry into the military.

I was trying to deal with the post-traumatic stress disorder on my own when I got out with an honorable discharge. I wasn’t able to maintain adequate employment. It usually lasts a few months. I always felt insecure and worthless. I once quit my job in hospitality due to the night watchman’s sexual harassment.

I am living with a little fear of putting myself in bad situations with the PTSD. I do have a wonderful nurse that would listen to me and I am taking medications for my mental illness. Physically, I have gained so much weight due to the pills. I have to diet and exercise. Even though I received a 70% disability rating, I am striving to lead a better life by acquiring new skills through a college education. My life is more calm and stable. I am hopeful that I can handle new challenges with courage. I wish for others to start healing and seeking help like I did.