Predators Aren’t Patriots

Updated: January 30, 2014


By RU Guest Contributor Lydia Davey

I remember making the phone call to my parents. My hands were clammy. They’re clammy now as I remember it. I was sick to the pit of my stomach. How could I tell them what had happened to me? I said I had some bad news for them.

Then I told them what he’d done to me, and there was silence. I could hear my mom crying. I stared dully at the phone in my hand. I was 19 years old, a private first class in the Marines, and a rape victim.

"Etherica." A watercolor by MST survivor Lou Hicks.

“Etherica.” A watercolor by MST survivor Lou Hicks.

I’d lived in silence for two agonizing months after the assault. When I finally reached out to a corpsman to process what had happened, I was promptly reported to the command. I received non-judicial punishment (NJP) for “adultery,” and underage drinking. My attacker, a sergeant, got a slap on the wrist for providing alcohol to minors. To my knowledge, he still serves as an active duty Marine.

A sense of betrayal embedded itself in my mind, and stayed with me as I moved from duty station to duty station to Afghan deployment, and back again. I grew angry, cold, and detached. I wish I’d known then what I know now—that only 2.5% of military rapists are ever convicted. Perhaps I wouldn’t have felt so alone if I’d known I was joining a silent army of survivors whose ranks grow by 26,000 men and women each year.

Injustice by Inaction

I know the military isn’t teaming up with predators. I understand that 90% of all assaults are carried out by repeat offenders. Yet, I have to question the health of any organization that holds such significant apathy about accountability.

Sexual crimes, at every level in the military, are opportunities for integrity and accountability. Those opportunities are wasted when a sergeant watches his buddy take a drunk female private into his room. They’re wasted when a command decides to transfer an attacker instead of disciplining him. Integrity fails at a systemic level when the man who raped you leers at you from across the courtroom as the judge announces the verdict: “Not guilty.”

True organizational change has to happen from the inside out. In the case of military sexual trauma (MST), the first barrier to that change is a general unwillingness to think about, talk about, or interact with the problem in a meaningful way. “Rape” is a disruptive word. It’s uncomfortable. Disturbing. Involved. But it’s time we started having tough conversations and making hard decisions. Our brothers and sisters in arms deserve it.

Dealing in Discomfort

"Dark Things." Pencil drawing by MST survivor Jodi Short Martinez.

“Dark Things.” Pencil drawing by MST survivor Jodi Short Martinez.

Before I forgave him, I had dreams about finding his home and burning it to the ground with him in it. That seemed like justice to me.

Forgiving him is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. He didn’t deserve it. But after coming to faith, I’ve come to know the truth of G.K. Chesterson’s words: “To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”

Forgiveness is freedom. It’s accepting a less personal attachment to the punishment you think the other person deserves. It is release. I no longer want him to die, but I do think jail time would be more than appropriate.

For nearly a century, the DoD has soundly proven its inability to render justice to its own in this arena. The power to investigate, hear, and try sexual crimes should be removed from the victim’s and offender’s chain of command. The conflict of interests is too great.

Finding Hope

"Night." Poem by an MST survivor who chooses to remain anonymous.

“Night.” Poem by an MST survivor who chooses to remain anonymous.

Of course, final decisions about how to solve this problem are going to be made by people much more powerful, connected, and influential than I. But I’m contributing my voice to the discussion in my own way with a recently launched project: The Finding Hope Art Exhibition.

My goal? To crowdfund my way to $5,000 by February 15, 2014, so I can participate in the Millennial Trains Project’s transcontinental journey this March. The MTP offers civic-minded Millennials the opportunity to advance the causes we care about in seven cities across the nation.

In each city, I’ll host an exhibit of the photography, sculpture, poetry, and art of other survivors. I’ll also share my own experience as an MST survivor in the context of the larger problem.

Want to help me jumpstart this important conversation on a national level? You can donate, share, and find out more here.

Do you agree that the military is reticent to meaningfully address epidemic of MST? What other barriers do you see standing in the way of positive organizational change? I’d love to hear your thoughts.





  1. Justme

    January 30, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Lydia, thanks for sharing and all you are doing to try and bring some real perspective to MST. I hope that you find the peace you so deserve and are able to meet the goals you have set for yourself!
    It is so hard to come to grips with being assaulted to begin with, but to have that assault come from someone you serve with is another thing all together.
    Prior to my leaving active duty I had one heck of a party. I ended up separated from my group and hammered out of my mind. Clean cut guy offers me a ride back to Bragg, tells me he is a Lt. in one of the medical units. I took the ride, I was young and invincible but not up to walking back or taking a cab when a free ride just presented itself.
    Long story short, he was a predator. I woke up in his car parked out by Sicily DZ as he was trying to have his way with me. His head met steering wheel instead, and I bolted out of the car and throught the woodline right into concerntina wire some unit left behind. Sliced my leg pretty good. 2 days later I was gone from the Army, but that incident stayed with me forever. It was the second incident of a gay man hitting on me, but the first time one tried force himself on me like that. Colored my views of gays for years. Colored my view of the Army, myself, and drove me into a drinking binge that lasted almost 2 years accompanied by all sorts of risky behavior on my part to prove my manhood was still intact. Honestly, it is still there just not as close to the forefront.
    I only ever told a couple people parts of this story before today. I know it happened to other guys as well, but the stories always ended with them getting away before the predator got anywhere. funny how that works. that good old river “de nial” we travel on.

  2. Lydia Davey

    January 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Wow! Thank you for sharing your story! As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve been amazed by the number of men who have reached out to confirm that sexual assault is something that doesn’t happen exclusively to women. My hope is that as we take this topic from “taboo” to “talked about,” more survivors of both genders will feel comfortable coming forward, finding community, and getting access to helpful resources like Give An Hour, SWAN, and so many others.

    Feel free to inbox me on Facebook. I’d be happy to share resources!

  3. chet

    January 30, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    To my mind there are two separate issues here:

    1. The military structure in general and the UCMJ in particular is not very good at dealing with situations, like sexual assault , in which suspect and victim will never be able to practically work together again. I would go so far as to say the non-judicial system (chain of command) is counter productive to any sort of justice for the victim, full stop, period. Is it ever going to get better? No probably not, it’s just the unique nature of the military in that the suspect has an innate value to the primary organization that is expected to investigate and prosecute his crimes. Too many agendas.

    2. Bing drinking, loneliness, young adults. Look, we *might* find a way that he military could change it’s response to MST (hopefully not by just delivering ever more severe sentences to suspects but also with better investigations and better treatment of the victim. Short term – I am expecting the typical military response to be to just throw more suspects under the bus, regardless of their guilt or innocence, in the hopes of scaring the rest straight. Stupid but typical.) BUT, we will never see real improvement until young service members learn some self control. In today’s world, it should be a foregone conclusion that should you chose to drink yourself into oblivion, someone will probably try to beat you, rob you, rape you, or otherwise take advantage of you – even a “brother” or “sister”. Most of the folks I served with were good about remembering that in foreign ports of call. We need to do the same thing stateside and on base. I am going to venture a guess and say binge drinking is related to the vast majority of MST, either offender or victim or both. This BS about BAC/rank ratios is just that – BS. People don’t magically learn to be more responsible at a higher BAC if they wear more rank – just look at the Navy. Further, alcohol simply decreases inhibitions – there is no way around that chemical truth. Put boys and girls and alcohol in the same room that CELEBRATES and PROMOTES getting hammered and MST is sure to follow. We need to own up to that FIRST. The solution to that is, of course, a cultural shift away from binge drinking so don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

    The only real immediate change I can see happening is for parents to start preparing their children for the reality of today’s world and the dangers of the binge drinking environment. Military service should simply underscore this fact: There is never a time when it will be possible for a person to be safe and completely inebriated at the same time. Never. Control your drinking and you retain more control of what happens to you. “Service” to self and to nation requires sobriety. Want to party? Fine. Go to college and, as any in depth study will reveal, “CST” will probably occur at 2x to 3x the rate of “MST”.

    • Will Black

      January 31, 2014 at 3:09 am

      Okay, I understand that alcohol leads to bad decisions, unsafe environments, and all that jazz. But no, the issue isn’t with binge drinking, it’s with sexual assault. Plain and fucking simple. I was an Infantryman for over nine years, meaning I’ve been so hammered it would make Ozzy Osbourne tell me to slow down, and never once did I rape anyone.

      The issue is with horrible disgraces to the uniform thinking this is okay, and “leadership” that thinks sweeping it under the rug, or worse, blaming the victim as they did in the author’s case, is preferable to getting an evaluation report that says a rape occurred under their command.

      To even pretend that this is a drinking issue and not a rape issue is disgusting, Chet. That’s akin to saying that a bunch of white soldiers beating up a black soldier due only to his race is, at heart, a drinking problem.

      And to Lydia, I hope you get the funding you need. I’m dropping a few bucks in there now. Can’t give much, being a starving artist these days, but I’ll spread the word as best I can.

      • Sergeant Van

        February 2, 2014 at 4:20 pm

        Oh, great, here we go again. Whenever someone brings up risk factors that contribute to the possibility of being assaulted or raped, that someone always gets accused of “victim blaming.” Cut that bullshit out, right here and now.

        Alcohol is the most common denominator in sexual assaults by far. So common, in fact, that commands have policies (Korea comes to mind) where if a female has had a drop of alcohol in the last 24 hours and a male has any type of sexual contact with her, that male WILL be prosecuted for sexual assault. I’m not exaggerating that, either.

        Yes, it IS a binge drinking problem, because binge drinking and being the victim of sexual assault or rape are linked almost as assuredly as falling into the lake and getting wet.

        And before anyone says it, no, that does NOT shift the blame on the victim for putting herself in that situation by drinking; the perpetrator should be severely punished in a way that makes sure he is never a threat to women again.

  4. leftoftheboom

    January 31, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I am tired of hearing about assault and somewhere in the first statement are confessions showing the use of alcohol.

    Alcohol is a mind altering substance. You cannot tell me, or anyone else, that you are the victim when you do not know what you did or said because you were drunk.

    Understand me clearly. Rapists need to be executed. The crime is horrible, and I have friends who have been raped, then the perp needs to DIE.

    But if you are drunk, You started a chain of events that led to your problem.

    “But I was at a party and they spiked my “SODA”!”

    I have been a Force Protection officer for 14 years. If you put yourself in the hands of the enemy do not be surprised when they take advantage of you.

    Most military personnel are standup honorable people. They are all Recruited from the society we live in. They do not find military personnel in monasteries and bring them up like Templar Knights. They pull them from gangs, from low income families; from everywhere they can be found. We try to make them into respectable honorable people and most of the time we succeed. But “most of the time” is not one hundred percent.

    Lesson to learn: When alcohol is involved the first casualty is common sense.

    • Will Black

      January 31, 2014 at 7:35 am

      “You cannot tell me, or anyone else, that you are the victim when you do not know what you did or said because you were drunk.”

      Nobody should have to think of their brothers-in-arms as the enemy. These are supposed to be battle-buddies, and in the case of the story that kicked off this article, it was her leader. We all know alcohol makes for shit decisions, but it doesn’t remove your right to not be raped. I don’t care how shit-faced someone is, they are still a victim of a horrible crime.

      To say otherwise is pretty god damn horrifying, and the fact that not one but two people have raised the point of “you wouldn’t get raped if you weren’t drunk” makes me think that either I’m the only decent human on earth or that MST is a bigger issue than anyone can conceive of.

      • leftoftheboom

        January 31, 2014 at 8:08 am

        What immunization at basic did you receive that made you a noble virtuous warrior?

        Or is it something they add to the laundry so your uniform makes you into that paragon of virtue?

        People are people. The military is expected to live to a higher standard. Expectation and hope do not make it so.

        Plan for the worst, use common sense, and you lower the chances of something happening. Lower not remove.

        There are true predators out there who hunt down their victims and they are dangerous and hard to stop.

        Someone getting taken at a drunken party is not even in the same league.

        Do not rely on someone else for your safety. And don’t give me that shit about battle buddies. Your battle buddy may cover your ass like a blanket when down range. They have no obligation in the real world.

        • Will Black

          January 31, 2014 at 8:18 am

          The immunization I got was simply being a decent human.

          People shouldn’t base their lives and the decisions around the fear of what a predator should do. And the real point in the article, the reason I’m responding to all the “don’t get drunk” reductionist arguments, is that the chain of command is failing here.

          Reducing this story and issue to “well… just don’t get drunk” doesn’t address the fact that this female service member was punished for being raped. The fact that 97.5% of rape cases go nowhere.

          So no, the message and moral shouldn’t be reduced to “if you’re drunk you aren’t a victim.” The message should be, what the fuck is wrong with us. Us, the entire military, especially men in the military. We are the ones that need to learn a lesson here. We’re the ones that need to change our actions. Not the victims.

          • leftoftheboom

            January 31, 2014 at 9:06 am

            I did say, execute rapist. I firmly believe in punishment that fits the crime and a rapist does lasting damage. They should pay a permanent price.

            I am also saying, that cases which the victim performed actions that put them at risk create reasonable doubt that rape occurred.

            We do not live in Utopian society where bad things happening are rare. We live in a society that stupid crap happens every minute.

            Military leaders are required to deal with allegations of misconduct. Commanders cannot impose their personal values on a case. They can only do what the JAG allows them to do. If the first problem in a case is establishing that something was without consent, the case is nearly always lost. Sometimes the best that can be done is a fraternization charge and those do not always move beyond an Article 15.

            Understand the Legal system before you complain it is not working. And understand human nature. If you find a society where everyone is nice and loves each other and would not dream of harming another you let me know where it is at and I will move immediately. In the meantime, I have to deal with the reality in front of me.

            If you don’t want to be a victim, don’t act like one, be responsible for your own actions, and don’t do things that involve unnecessary risk. I did not say live in fear, you did. I said don’t act like everyone is your best friend and has your back. That is common sense.

            Calcification; I am not blaming the victim. I am saying that you cannot substantiate legally that they are one because at the time of the complaint, their judgment was suspect and they don’t know factually what they did or did not do, said or did not say. And if the perpetrator is equally drunk, and their judgment is impaired, exactly who is guilty?

            There is entirely too much sympathy and not enough accountability because remember, your argument states that the military culture has a problem. It does, soldiers getting drunk and losing control, discipline, and moral bearing. Maturity and self-discipline are the problems, the rest is a symptom.

          • B

            February 2, 2014 at 1:19 pm

            Dude you think drinking is the problem? The problem is the assaulter not the assaulted. You shouldnt put yourself in that situation is a stupid argument. Now i can (i believe safely) assume that most people on here are veterans, leo, firefighters or military enthusist so imagine if you went iraq, got blown up and your nco just left you there. It would be world wide news (or big news in ‘murica and isnt that the only part of the world that matters.). If that was the case the argument of well you set yourself up for failure wouldnt apply so why do it here? No one expects to get raped. I have made manyof women rethink their drinking but never did i ever rape anyone. Their not patriots and your ‘oh well you shouldnt of drank’ makes me believe you’re not much of a patriot either. if there was an article about wounded veterans, police, or firefighters being abandoned and being punished for their injuries we as a community would be in a uproar so why do it to the assaulted (just because you join a male dominated organization doesnt mean you volunteered to be a victim).

          • Sergeant Van

            February 2, 2014 at 4:25 pm

            Nobody fucking said “if you’re drunk you aren’t a victim” or that being drunk removed your right to not be raped. You’re the one being reductionist, here.

  5. leftoftheboom

    January 31, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Why is drunk driving against the law?

    Your decision making ability and judgment are impaired and you cannot focus.

    Symptoms include making stupid choices, taking risks, and memory loss.

    Next time you party think before you drink.

    • Lydia Davey

      January 31, 2014 at 11:05 am

      I think your view largely represents the view of those currently in leadership. There are valid concerns about how to hold people accountable when alcohol is abused, and frustration when sympathy is extended to men or women who drink and then get assaulted by their peers. The problem is, the concept of shared responsibility for rape often results in the entire thing getting written off because it’s too complicated or frustrating to tangle with.

      I can take responsibility for drinking. And I do. That’s where my crime ends, and his begins.

      In my case, at least 10 Marines sat around and watched my squad leader take me away when I was so drunk I couldn’t stand or walk. I was 19, and I’d never had alcohol before. But even if I had – even if that was a trend – that doesn’t justify what came afterward. In theory, respect would look like my squad leader pursuing me when we were both sober. But even that wouldn’t have been appropriate because of the differences in ranks. He should never have touched me in a sexual way – even less so if I was under the influence of alcohol.

      The reason 90% of all assaults are carried out by repeat offenders is that they’ve gotten away with it before. They know they can do it again. And they do.

      • leftoftheboom

        January 31, 2014 at 12:43 pm

        I cannot imagine what you are feeling. I also know my words may have hurt and I will do something that I don’t normally do, I will apologize to you for making your life that much harder. You are correct; though I would say your actions were a mistake more than a crime and you are absolutely correct that the actions of the squad leader were not justified.

        I want, very, very much, to punish those guilty of rape and assault. I believe that what they have done is abhorrent and I know, second hand, that it is permanently scarring to an individual.

        I want the ability to drop the hammer and not have it deflected by doubt, as in legal benefit of the doubt. I have seen cases where everyone in the room knew the guilty party but we barely managed to do anything because the character of the victim became the defense focus and since alcohol was involved, reasonable doubt remains. I want that doubt gone. I want to make examples of those who dishonor the uniform and the trust their subordinates are supposed to have in them.

        My frustration is also brought about by the fact that there is an assumption, both in and out of uniform, that the uniform or the service in general, places you in the company of respectable people. I have had soldiers that I loved like my own children and I would not trust them to take care of my dog. They did the job, some died for their country, but nothing about their sacrifice elevated their morals to anything above abysmal.

        I will not label all military personnel as good nor will I label them all as bad. The problem with labels is that they do not distinguish reality very well. Discipline and moral character are built from the inside and it is a terrible thing when you cannot trust your leaders. But the unfortunate truth is that you may trust a soldier to die for you, but you cannot trust them with your virtue.

        I don’t like that fact but not liking it does not make it go away. You were probably convinced that you were in a safe environment. What I am saying is that when you impair yourself, there is no safe environment.

        • Lydia Davey

          February 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm

          I appreciate both your well-founded frustration, and your willingness to engage in this conversation. I couldn’t agree more that when we impair ourselves, there is no safe environment – unless we’re around good people.

          As a more mature Marine, I made it a rule of thumb to not do anything social after 5 at any new duty station for the first three weeks to a month. That gave me a good amount of time to understand the character of the people I was working with and around. I quickly discovered that the first crowd to approach is rarely the one worth getting to know. I sincerely wish I could share this insight, among others, with more young service members.

          • leftoftheboom

            February 3, 2014 at 8:06 pm

            I always told my female troops who to stay away from, at least in the unit. But I could not tell them about the entire post.

            You do the best you can. Keep the faith and keep moving forward. Sometimes the best you can do is one step at a time.

  6. John

    January 31, 2014 at 8:16 am

    There have been some very good points raised in this discussion. I agree whole heartedly that the main issue here is Rape/MST. It should not take place. Perpetrators should be dealt with swiftly and harshly. It is a horrific act that should not be tolerated. That being said, while Rape/MST is the main issue, it is not the only issue. Will Black wrote “Nobody should have to think of their brothers-in-arms as the enemy”. I agree 110%, but the reality is that it’s not always the case. It shouldn’t be, but sometimes it is. So a question we must ask ourselves, especially as leaders; is how can we set others (and ourselves) up for success.

    • Lydia Davey

      February 3, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      I love the question. What do you think about Korea rules mentioned in a comment above? That is, limiting sexual contact among service members unless both are – without a shadow of a doubt – sober? Too far? Too much regulation? Or just enough?


  7. Eric H

    January 31, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Rape is never acceptable and anyone convicted of it should be punished in the most painful way possible. I don’t think that is even a question. Now, I’m sorry you had this event happen to you but I have to ask: What would you want done if the Command put the ball in your court? You say it was rape, he probably said it was consensual intoxicated sex. He said/she said.

    As a former infantry NCO I have seen stupid move after stupid move when alcohol comes into play. We’re all grown ass adults who know the effects of drinking. The chain of command knows the effects too. How many people reading this have or know someone who has woken up beside someone and said “F*CK!!!”? Happens every day.

    Again, sorry for what happened but what do you want done? Do you want this guy convicted on a he said/she said case? Do you want the justice system to throw away the innocent until proven guilty concept? Perhaps those of us that serve should take the advice of EVERY command element that I have ever served under and police ourselves and not put ourselves in a position that could result in a horrific outcome.

    • JoeC

      February 3, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      This is exactly what I thought LOTB was talking about when he said “You cannot tell me, or anyone else, that you are the victim when you do not know what you did or said because you were drunk.” I agree with that statement and I agree with what you are saying. You can’t convict someone of a crime when the complainant and primary witness have their credibility compromised by alcohol. How do you distinguish between rape and regret when a person doesn’t remember half of the evening? You can’t. A victim being drunk does not absolve the criminal from their acts, but it does free them from punishment because of reasonable doubt. Without other witnesses there is no other possible outcome.

      • Lydia Davey

        February 3, 2014 at 8:29 pm

        I think once you’ve been raped, you know the difference.


    • Lydia Davey

      February 3, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      You ask a question that I haven’t found resolution for yet. Rule of law is valuable. So is justice. There is inherent tension between the two.

      Regardless of the he said/she said argument, I was ultimately punished for a crime that isn’t on his record. How could I commit adultery with no one? Where’s the logic/justice/rule of law there?

      Although the disparity carries some pretty powerful symbolism about the way our military justice system handles MST, I would love to have the charge removed from my record until he carries it in his record too.

      So to answer your question (at least partially), if I were the command I’d be willing to apply the same charges to the person who was accused as I would the person who reported the assault.


    • Lydia Davey

      February 3, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      You ask a question that I haven’t found resolution for yet. Rule of law is valuable. So is justice. There is inherent tension between the two.

      Regardless of the he said/she said argument, I was ultimately punished for a crime that isn’t on his record. How could I commit adultery with no one? Where’s the logic/justice/rule of law there?

      Although the disparity carries some pretty powerful symbolism about the way our military justice system handles MST, I would love to have the charge removed from my record until he carries it in his record too.


    • jenspellbound

      February 5, 2014 at 12:06 am

      I had the same situation as the mentioned article. I didn’t want to report it but I confided in a friend and he reported it because he couldn’t sit there holding on to that info. It all came down to he said she said. What I would have like done was a well performed investigation. I didn’t get one but if I did and there was no evidence to convict then I would have liked for either him or me be removed from post and sent somewhere else. Instead I got njp’d for under age drinking and the details I told the victim’s advocate in confidence were gossiped around the bn. The bn psych tried to push my buttons to get a rise out of me asking me how I felt that since I was Asian people automatically associate me as being a slut. She told me everyone was gossiping about me behind my back and made me feel isolated. If things are done properly and there isn’t enough evidence to convict then leave it at that. If I was treated fairly and given proper legal rights I wouldn’t be so fucked up today. What I have the hardest time dealing with is the way the command treated me. The Marine Corps broke my heart and I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from that.

  8. Caleb

    February 3, 2014 at 11:53 am

    You know what this conversation needs? PowerPoint and an online certificate. MST is horrible, but I have never done it, none of my friends have either. Why am I punished with more and more videos, briefings and surveys when I’m not doing it? As for your experience, sorry. I know that’s no a lot, but it’s all I have. As a male, in Combat arms, I came in to do one thing and it wasn’t to assault women. Stop preaching at me please.

    • Lydia Davey

      February 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I can kind of relate to the frustration of getting multiple briefs on things that have nothing to do with you. Motorcycle safety, for instance. 20 minutes on motorcycle safety before weekend libo. And probably three guys in the whole unit actually had motorcycles. For the majority of service members, briefs about MST may be as useless and misguided as you suggest.

      But it’s still a growing problem. What do you think would be a more productive way to address the issue?


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