Commentary: I was raped

  • Published
  • By Maj. Minde Geiger
  • 435th Air Expeditionary Wing

Only seven months into my Air Force career and at my first duty station. I was a college graduate, slightly older and with a few more years of life experience under my belt than fellow peers embarking on their military careers. I was in security forces, still getting my legs underneath me and working on the assertiveness the career field requires. I felt I was an independent, strong woman who held her own. I was a three-sport athlete all through high school, known to have been in a kerfuffle or two on the court or field. Little did I know one night in February 1998, those notions would all come crumbling down.

On that one fateful evening, I was choked, berated, demeaned, disgraced, humiliated, and dehumanized.

I was raped. 

There was a moment during those hours where I thought to myself, “How can I allow this to happen to ME? I’m a cop – cops don’t let this happen! Is this how my parents are going to find me? Dead, abused, a victim of sexual assault? Their little girl who had just broken out on her own to forge her own path?”

I contemplated every single step needed to escape. Should I grab the bat? Hit him? Unlock the door? Sprint for my life? What if I don’t make it to the bat or the door in time? He’ll choked me … again. This time it might be my very last breath.

I broke free by locking him in the bathroom, and I sprinted for my life down to the day room where I called 911 from a payphone. Unfortunately, the operator had no recourse, but to notify security forces because it was on base. My unit had to respond no matter how much I begged her not to notify them.

The patrolman immediately surmised what had occurred between the torn clothing, disheveled look and bruises on my neck. Though he said the word with simple ease, I wasn’t able to bring myself to give voice, to give power to such a word as, “rape.”

I was escorted to the emergency room where I was met by the responding Office of Special Investigations agent.

“If you don’t have a sexual assault forensic exam done, then the next time he assaults someone it will be your fault,” he said.

Clearly, not the most professional thing to say, but convincing nonetheless. I found myself afraid and alone, with the exception of the sexual assault nurse examiner combing, scraping, swabbing, and photographing every corner and crevice of my body.

From there, I was immediately escorted to the OSI office where I spent an additional three hours being interviewed and providing my statement.

I returned to my room to find it taped off – a crime scene. My clothing was confiscated as evidence, so I grabbed an outfit to replace the hospital scrubs I was provided. I never returned to that room. In fact, I was moved to a different dorm entirely. Yet inexplicably, the person who assaulted me remained the dorm manager’s assistant, meaning he still had access to my location and worse, my room.

For months to follow, I was the “talk of the town” within my unit. People debated whether I was really assaulted or if it was just “rough sex” that got out of hand. Despite trying to dispel some of these horrifying rumors, they continued to persist. Some even said years later the first thing anyone told them about me was, “she’s the girl who was raped.”

The case went to court-martial. I waited in the back room, alone and afraid. It was an open court with a jury, and I was ill-prepared for the litany of personal, graphic interrogations by the defense when I was on the stand. Again, I felt berated, demeaned, disgraced, humiliated, and dehumanized. All I wanted to do was finally scream, “I was raped!” Once the defense was done with me, I was discarded out the back door the same way I came in, alone and afraid.

He was convicted, but only received two years of prison time. As a victim, I was supposed to be notified of his release, but I only found out six months after the fact.

This was in 1998 through 1999, where there was no concept of a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. Now, 23 years later, I think to myself how different might my experience have been if SAPR was around.

On June 13, 2005, the Department of Defense created the SAPR program and office in response to former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld’s call to review the treatment and care of victims of sexual assault in the military services. The Care for Victims of Sexual Assault Task Force was assembled, releasing a series of comprehensive recommendations 90 days later and leading to the establishment of the Joint Task Force for Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. In 2005, the Task Force provided instruction to more than 1,200 Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, chaplains, lawyers and law enforcement officers, and established SAPR offices at all major installations.

On June 13, 2021, the SAPR program celebrates its 16th year. With the Secretary of Defense retired Gen. Lloyd Austin’s recent establishment of the 90-day Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault, it is time to once again take a deep dive into our program to ensure we are meeting the needs of our Airmen of all ranks and positions. Those who have been around since its inception have seen the multiple iterations of our program, some well done and others needing more finesse. Just like Horatius’ famous quote, “I am not as I once was,” so too has our program transformed over 16 years with an infinite amount of opportunities to continue to improve!

The 435th AEW SAPR office can be reached at DSN 314-478-7832 or contact the 24/7 hotline number at +49-152-544-35007.