Editor’s note: This post is from Sharon Mixon, one of the female veterans featured in the 2003 investigative series I co-authored, “Betrayal in the Ranks,” that detailed how sexual assault and domestic violence cases were mishandled in the U.S. military. Sharon, a combat medic, was gang raped by her fellow soldiers during Operation Desert Storm, an ordeal that shattered her her life. Slowly, with great determination and tenacity, Sharon has healed. Over the years, she and I have stayed in touch, and recently, she was talking to me about her frustration in trying to get help from “the system.” I asked her if she’d mind sharing her thoughts here, and she said not at all. This is from Sharon:
It takes longer to recover from trauma when you are being beaten down by the very system you are going to for help. When you are going through the process you are not worried about saying the cookie-cutter buzz words that would ensure your help as you are filling out the required paperwork. When you are truly in crisis you are focused on telling the truth innocently, and incorrectly assume that is what the agencies are looking for as well.
When you have survived traumatic events you should not also have to survive the process and the system you are going to for help. Reaching out and asking for help should not be retraumatizing or be further victimizing by making you feel helpless and powerless. Those who perpetrate the crime and the trauma have more resources and rights than those trying to overcome it. That’s where people get “lost.” That’s the final betrayal that all too often destroys you.
-Sharon Mixon August 23, 2011