When I got back to my command, I entered the gates of Hell.
Alcohol and the grace of God, spared me the memories of the rape, but I’ll never forget the bullying I endured for the next 38 months, after returning to my command from my TAD trip to San Diego and that awful trip to Tijuana.
I endured daily microaggressions and microassaults. This is how psychologytoday.com defines microaggressions:
“The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.”
They’re often subtle. So subtle, that they sound ridiculous when you try to report them.
(Note: There’s some strong language in the video below.)
If I had to call someone in my chain-of-command, he’d hang up without so much as saying, “goodbye.” I’d be given responsibility for a project only to have my subordinates told to circumvent me. It was as ridiculous as… if I said, “yes,” they’d say, “no.” If I said, “no,” they’d say, “yes.” If I turned a light switch on, they’d turn it off and if I turned it off, they’d turn it on. Now, imagine going to your manager and reporting that your supervisor is turning off the lights when you turn them on?! See what I mean?
They weren’t all so subtle though…
On one occasion my supervisor went home on leave for Christmas – out of state. This meant that I was the ranking supervisor on duty during his absence. I didn’t know it at the time, but my supervisor sent an email to all the system managers at each command, giving them his parents’ home phone number and told them to contact him if they had any system problems.
One morning, my division officer, a lieutenant, came charging out of his office demanding to know why, during the morning brief, I didn’t tell him that one of our sites was down due to maintenance problems. I honestly had no idea what he was talking about and as I began to tell him so, I could hear snickering from the cubicle next to mine – coming from a subordinate.
I got up and questioned the subordinate in front of my division officer. He confirmed that the piece of hardware that was needed was already packaged and, in the mail, headed their way – all because the system manager at the location contacted my supervisor at his parents’ home and then he contacted my subordinate. The division officer was satisfied. He didn’t feel it was necessary to reprimand anyone for circumventing me and when I tried, I was shutdown.
On another occasion, my subordinate failed to report for duty because he forgot and went to lunch with our supervisor. I wrote him up because I was the watch bill coordinator – and had to stand his duty for him because he was nowhere to be found. I didn’t realize where he was until after the fact. The report was torn up, and instead I was formerly counseled for overstepping my boundaries. Sigh….
LACK OF COMMUNICATION
One morning I walked into work, and was quite bluntly asked by the division officer, “Why are you here?”
I was baffled. Why shouldn’t I be at work at my scheduled duty time? It was then that I was told that the Commander Naval Security Group (COMNAVSECGRU) called because one of Guam’s systems crashed. No one assigned to that particular project had actually ever operated the system. I was the NAVSECGRU subject matter expert. This is the reason I was ordered to the command in the first place. But, it’s not what I was tasked to work on once I arrived.
When COMNAVSECGRU called they must have put the heat on, and the command finally listened.
I called my husband to come get me, so I could go home and pack. My flight had already been booked by the command and I was due to leave in a few short hours! He hurriedly got the kids off to school and was on his way back to the base.
As I was leaving, my supervisor asked me why I wasn’t headed toward the morning brief. UGH!! SERIOUSLY?! Apparently he hadn’t been told about my orders to Guam.
I turned around and walked into the brief.
During the brief, the lieutenant, asked why I was there and not at home packing. I wanted to roll my eyes. Maybe I did roll my eyes, but I don’t think I did. I did my best to stay professional. But, these people….
My supervisor asked the lieutenant what he was talking about. The lieutenant went on to explain. I stayed for the remainder of the brief and then high-tailed it out of the building because my husband was waiting in the parking lot for me, but, but…..not before my supervisor stopped me and CHEWED ME OUT for not telling him! WAIT? WHAT? EXCUSE ME? I’M GOING TO MISS MY INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT!
I’m trying to follow orders and you’re upset and YELLING at me because you don’t know what I was ordered to do even though your direct supervisor knows, the division officer knows, the department head knows, the commanding officer knows, and I’ve got a flight to catch in two hours! I wanted to shout, “TALK TO THE CHAIN-OF-COMMAND!”
They didn’t talk to each other and I bore the brunt of the fallout.
They tried with all their might to make me think I was at fault.
TRYING TO RATIONALIZE
When I witnessed a head on car accident and had to stay to wait for the police, I was marked as being on “unauthorized liberty” and written up again. For the record, I was interviewed by a local TV station and the police – so there was proof that I was at the scene of the accident. When I got to work I was actually more worried about being interviewed while in uniform, because there is no such thing as “unauthorized liberty” and being interviewed while in uniform by a TV reporter can be a thing.
It didn’t matter what I did – it was wrong. They would shout at me from over the cubicles to get them coffee. They’d discuss how women should be at home barefoot and pregnant – in some cases, like their own wives. Obscene jokes were an every day occurrence. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a prude, but these were over the top.
I tried to rationalize that they were trying to keep me quiet because of what happened on the trip to San Diego. Show me who’s in charge. That’s what they wanted. But, how is that even rational? They weren’t all present in San Diego. The men I was working with on this new project certainly weren’t there. And, other than snippets of what happened at the strip club in Tijuana, I don’t have any recall. I don’t know who raped me. It could have been a housekeeper, maintenance, room service…
Was this just the culture at this command?
Looking back now, all these years later, I see how absurd it all was and I get angry with myself for not being stronger. For not standing up to them. For not saying, “ENOUGH” or “NO!”
And yet, I realize, that I did try. Over. And. Over. Again. And. Again.
I even tried to use the hotline.
I was one against many.
I was alone.
And, that was not my fault.