News>Overcoming sexual assault through candid stories
An Air Force senior airman prays and recalls the challenges she’s endured at a base chapel in an undisclosed location. The Airman is a rape survivor and is a victim advocate in the base sexual assault prevention and response program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace/RELEASED)
An Air Force senior airman reads the bible in a base chapel at an undisclosed location. The Airman is a rape survivor and said her faith has been extremely significant in coping and recovery. She’s a victim advocate in the base sexual assault prevention and response program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace/RELEASED)
by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
9/11/2013 - MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- One Airman has come forward to share her tale of strife and survival in an effort to combat sexual assault and reinforce resiliency.
Senior Airman Jane Smith* said she hopes that through her experiences, others may grow stronger and wiser.
Seemingly born into an uphill world, physically and emotionally tested at every step, Smith's calamity started at birth.
Born to a drug-addicted mother, Jane was abandoned before her second birthday, lived briefly in a foster home and was later adopted by the man she grew to know as "Dad."
The young Jane had trust issues and always felt she was living someone else's life.
"Still, through dedication and persistence, I did well in school, and studied difficult subjects like Latin and (higher) math," Smith said.
The adolescent Smith continued to distrust. Her dad was physically abusive, which, when compounded with her troubled past, led to constant headaches and despair.
"I was a runaway by 17, lived briefly in a shelter, but continued to study on my own," she said. "I really liked school and wanted to be there."
Smith's future looked bleak, and she found herself contemplating suicide, she said. Two things continued to propel her forward when life seemed to continue to crumble around her.
Smith was a devoted Christian and felt strongly that suicide was the ultimate betrayal of God and to the few who loved her, she said. Secondly, since the age of 7, the year her mother died, Smith always wanted to serve her country.
She said serving in the Air Force would make her part of an organization that strengthened the frail and provided a top-notch education for those who hadn't the means to attend college.
She still had a dilemma - to enlist, she first had to finish high school.
With a promise from her dad that the abuse wouldn't continue, Smith agreed to return home.
He kept his promise, and Smith prevailed. She shipped off to Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, the July after her high school graduation.
Entering the Air Force meant a new life for Smith and after BMT, she was trained in her Air Force specialty, earned senior airman below the zone, earned an annual career field award in 2010, and was on her way toward her goal of making chief master sergeant.
"For the first time in my life, I felt like nothing could stop me," Smith said.
But just as she felt things were finally going good for her, a friend betrayed her during a temporary duty at a stateside location.
"(The alleged assailant) and I stayed on the same floor of our hotel," Smith recalled. "He came over to my room to watch a movie with me. I didn't see him as a threat and was friends with him at home station, so I didn't see a problem with watching a movie together.
"When he got to my room and started watching the movie, he started trying to touch me and asked if I wanted to (hook up)," she said. "I told him no. He didn't take no for an answer, pinned me to the bed and stripped off my clothes, then ..."
Smith, a 5-foot, 93-pound female was easily pinned down and couldn't break free, she said.
After the assault, the assailant then tried to hug her -- as if the sex was consensual.
Smith quickly got dressed, pretending nothing happened and left.
She continued to serve the final week of her TDY, working nearly side-by-side with her assailant.
When she returned home to her base on the East Coast, Smith's coworkers noticed a drastic change in her.
"I left for my TDY a smiley and friendly (Jane), and returned something else," she said. In fact, Smith's supervisor noticed she never smiled, was withdrawn and would make frequent trips to the bathroom and return looking like she had been crying.
A friend confronted Smith, confiding that she had also been raped, and feared Smith was showing the same signs.
Smith revealed the truth about what happened on her TDY, she said. Her supervisor and coworkers were very supportive of her, and she filed an unrestricted report with her base's sexual assault and response coordinator.
Now engaged and set to marry in 2014, Smith is paving the path forward in life and in her career, she said. She continues to dedicate much of her time to her faith and now is also devoted to helping sexual assault victims who may have suffered the way she did.
"If telling my story can help other people, then that's what I want to do," said Smith, who hopes to deploy soon.
"I still want to serve my country," she said. "I love the Air Force and volunteer for every deployment that my rank qualifies me for. Being raped partially defines who I am now, but will never define who I'm going to become. If -- no -- when I make (chief master sergeant) someday, I'm going to do everything I can to help foster a healthy team of Airmen."
Editor's note: Jane Smith is a fictional name. The actual name, assignments and TDY locations have been changed.
Editor's note: Jane Smith is a fictional name. The actual name, assignments and TDY locations of the alleged rape victim are withheld. However, other facts are all actual accounts given by the alleged victim.
CSAF and CMSAF Sexual Assault Prevention Message
9/13/2013 5:18:17 PM ET This is an amazing story with detailed writing.
Al DiAngelo, Idaho
9/11/2013 2:47:42 PM ET Beautifully written story of a strong female who didn't let one individual's horrible decision shape the rest of her life for her nor deter her from continuing in the USAF. Continue to defeat the odds Other will follow... Thank you for sharing your story and serving our country. MSgt Wallace yet again your writing and layout leave me speechless.