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Confronting Military Sexual Trauma

Army veteran BriGette Mccoy is advocating for the victims of MST - including herself

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SENATE HEARING: (L-R) Anu Bhagwati, executive director and co-founder of the Service Women’s Action Network; BriGette Mccoy, former specialist in the U.S. Army; Rebekah Havrilla, former sergeant in the U.S. Army; and Brian Lewis, former petty
  • Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • SENATE HEARING: (L-R) Anu Bhagwati, executive director and co-founder of the Service Women’s Action Network; BriGette Mccoy, former specialist in the U.S. Army; Rebekah Havrilla, former sergeant in the U.S. Army; and Brian Lewis, former petty officer third class in the U.S. Navy testify about being sexually assaulted while in the military during a hearing March 13, 2013, in Washington, D.C. The hearing on sexual assault was before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Personnel Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

My command decided to send me to the detached unit [in Miesau, Germany]. I went to the detachment in September. November through April or May I was fine. While I was there, I got pregnant in a consensual relationship. Maybe June or July of '89 [unit command] found out, so they moved me back [to Zweibrücken].

And the sexual harassment started. There were two different people it was coming from: there was a senior NCO and the commanding officer. Inappropriate words, inappropriate touching. The commanding officer followed me, stalking me. He was "trying to catch me" is what he said. Those were his words. When I reported it, [I was told] I didn't understand what his intentions were.

I tried multiple times to get out of that unit and they said that I was mission essential. I had a general ask for me to be in his unit, and they said that I was mission essential. I couldn't get out of the unit.

As soon as I [filed] sexual harassment paperwork, I got out of the unit because I was discharged. The person who helped me file was another NCO, another female. She said that the person I was filing against, he had said stuff to her as well, and "my husband will lose his career if I say something. But I will help you file this paperwork and I will stand beside you."

I got my honorable discharge [in 1991]. I deserved the honorable discharge any damn way.

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I landed in North Carolina. [My daughter's] dad had gotten out a year before, and he was living in North Carolina. But I was very angry. And you can't get help and support when you're angry and volatile. He's out of the military, he has his own issues, and I have my own issues and we're trying to make it work, not just to be supportive of each other but for the baby. It became a very bad situation very quickly.

So I got a job, I got a car, a place to live. I went to school, and I was raising my daughter and I was just trying to get on with my life. This was 1991.

Around 2001 or '02, after two major car accidents, I started spiraling. I call it my "getting missing" stages. I wasn't in contact with anybody — my family, my friends. I would drop off for like eight, nine months to a year at a time. My family thought I was doing drugs. That's consistent with behavior of doing drugs. But I wasn't. I was just like, I gotta work, I gotta focus, I can't get caught up in this other stuff and get all emotional. And I was embarrassed that I wasn't doing better. Because I wasn't raised like that. You work hard and you get it together and you get on your feet. And I just couldn't get on my feet. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how good a job, bad a job, how many jobs, how much education ... I just couldn't figure it out.

My grandmother, she sent the police to my house. I opened my front door and the police were there and they said, "Ma'am." I was like, "Oh shit — they found me. I must have done something wrong." And they [mentioned my grandmother.] "Oh, shit," I thought, "something's wrong with her." And I'm like, "Yes?" And they're like "Will you call your grandmother? She's worried about you." I'm just standing at the door going, "OK." It's funny now, but it was not funny then.

I was scared to work in anything military because I was afraid if I did, someone would know me, somebody would know my past. I had a top-secret SCI clearance in the military. I could have written a ticket anywhere I wanted to go. But emotionally, it was too raw for me.

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