A young soldier faces sexual assault, stalking, and inadequate support from the chain of command while deployed overseas, finding solace and protection in the unwavering support of fellow NCOs.
Six months before the “Me Too” movement, the author, a 19-year-old serving on their first overseas deployment, experienced a life-changing event. They were sexually assaulted by a patient at their workplace, but due to the power dynamics involved, they initially questioned what had happened. Despite reporting the assault to a supervisor who issued a verbal warning, the author felt horrible and sought solace in the barracks. A military policeman, whom they respected and trusted, noticed their distress and encouraged them to speak up. The military policeman accompanied the author to their company commander and provided unwavering support. Following the incident, the author always had an NCO (non-commissioned officer) by their side for protection, and the assault was reported to higher-ranking officials. However, the harasser continued to appear in their vicinity, causing anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and suicidal thoughts. The author felt unsafe and realized that the chain of command wouldn’t provide help until a more severe incident occurred. They didn’t have the vocabulary to express what had happened to them and feared the consequences of seeking mental health support. Despite these challenges, the NCOs remained steadfast in protecting the author physically.