(M)ilitary (S)exual (T)rauma by Anonymous

Military Sexual Trauma they say, or simply “MST”
An acronym for ease or one really just to hide the dis-ease?

When it happened to me there were no acronyms
and certainly not much awareness

I went into the military in the era of GI Jane
yet quickly realized that I was truly serving in Bill Clinton’s military—
“Monica Lewinsky-style”
Women were allowed, but conditions had to be met…

It started right away in Officer Training School
I was “scouted” out by a classmate and prior-enlisted man who was currently separated from his wife
Then I was put into a position of leadership and moved right across the hall from him in an isolated section of the dorms,
far, far away from the fewer than 10 females in my entire class of less than 100 and with only two other males in shouting distance

He knew everything about the military as a middle-aged prior enlisted man and held a higher rank in my class
In fact, he was appointed our “Wing Commander”—THE top position
I knew nothing as a civilian, young, 20-something female
So, he quickly showed me the way

The word consent seems confusing in this context
For me the military was a path to a new world
one out of the despair and the lack of opportunity I saw in my home state
The stress was unreal and unlike anything I had ever felt

So when the “Wing Commander” initiated a relationship
I saw saying yes as the only possible way into the military
I didn’t want to quit or complain or do anything to receive negative attention—I was NOT going back home
Even if I shouted, no one who might have cared would have heard me anyway

Even though we had to sneak around…
Even though he often suggested we meet alone,
away from the rest of our staff—to discuss “wing” business he would say to the others…
All of which was code for “indiscretions”—MST they now call it

Luckily graduation came and new assignments were made
We went our separate ways—he never reached out as I knew he wouldn’t
I just tried to stuff it all away

Today he serves as the director of a premier research facility within the Air Force Institute of Technology

Then less than a year into my time on active duty it happened again—
I was at my first duty station and introduced to a 1st LT from my squadron
It was at the back of a bar, where all of us went on the weekends
He pulled me in, grabbed my shoulders, and shoved his tongue down my throat

The friend who introduced us just left
and later denied he saw anything
The 1st LT said he was from New York
and that’s how introductions go there…

When I returned to my table of all female officer friends, I immediately told my story
They told me to be quiet
I was new, they said, and did not want that kind of “reputation;” I would never get the response I wanted
One of the female officers was the base manpower officer and another was a lawyer

I did tell this time, though, even without the support of my female officers
First, my captain and then my squadron commander
Turns out, I wasn’t his first and the 1st LT had a habit of this
With my story, they were able to kick him out of the Air Force

Yet, I never received any counseling or filed a report or was told anything outside of closed-door meetings with my commander
What a terrific way to start off in a new organization
My heavy drinking only accelerated after that
In fact, I met my future husband and a fellow male officer right around that time

Ironically, though, the main thing we shared was our drinking and anger toward the military
In his mind, he was robbed of an “owed” pilot slot; while in my mind, I was robbed of my humanity
We never really talked about my MST—in fact, I never really talked about my MST
Until I got sober and started counseling, more than 20 years later

MST is a term used to hide the dis-ease in a world that only knows acronyms
A world that has not evolved into the complexities of gender and sexuality and human emotions and relationships
A world that prefers charts and logic to people and emotions
A world where women are welcome, so long as conditions are met

MST is the dis-ease…

with women showing up and even leading
with women achieving higher levels of education
and advancing in a society, even when the chips have always been stacked against them
with men being uncomfortable…
MST is patriarchy, physical strength, denial, weakness, and the sexualization of women and men

The dis-ease stems from society
The dis-ease is not really ever talked about meaningfully
even more so now  because the military has regulations, procedures, and processes…
and, of course, an acronym—one that perfectly hides the dis-ease

Luckily I have gotten better—I no longer drink to deal with my pain
I am learning to handle the conflicting emotions of being both proud and ashamed of my time in the military

And, now, for the first time ever, I am openly sharing my story.

For it is only through telling the truth that we can become free
In rejecting the shame and ugliness the society and military have tried to place on me
I know that MST is about a lot more than me and my wing commander at OTS and a random 1st Lt
It is about the dis-ease with sexual abusers taking responsibility for their actions and the military upholding its value to protect all of those serving in its ranks

Military sexual trauma they say, or simply MST

An acronym for ease or one really just to hide the dis-ease?