Woman warrior workouts are named after women who have been affected by Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Ginny has found hope in her MST/PTSD recovery and now shares that hope with others. Here is her story and the workout to represent her retirement date and the day her new life began.
I was 18 when I reported to Coast Guard boot camp in October 2002, after which I attended school to become a cook; having cooked since I was 8 and participating in culinary competitions since I was 15, cooking was a no-brainer for me and I loved it. In May 2003, I reported to my first duty station where things went well and I made some good friends, but mainly kept my head down and worked to get all of my qualifications signed off.
My World Came Crashing Down
My world came crashing down in November 2003. While dropping some friends off at the barracks, instead of driving back to my apartment, I showered in their room and got ready to go out that night. There were other people in their room, all of whom were drinking. As I was leaving, one of the males approached me and repeatedly asked, “Why don’t you just stay here and party?” to which I said, “No, thanks” and tried to leave, but he kept grabbing my crotch & breast. After getting out of the room, he followed me to the elevators, the entire 12 floors down, and then out to my car where he continued groping & blocking me from my car. I shoved him enough to get into my car and drove off. It left me beyond shaken.
When I returned home that night, I had voice messages from him saying, “You better not tell anyone or it will be worse for you than for me.” The next day, he showed up to my apartment to tell me again that I shouldn’t say anything. Someone on the ship had given him my phone number and home address. He also threatened me while we were onboard the ship. Initially, I didn’t say anything to my command because I was afraid of what would happen to me. When my performance at work began to decline, I finally broke down and told my supervisors what happened. They asked me how I wanted to handle it but then decided for me and started a formal military investigation.
Attacks Continued After The Assault
That’s when my life became hell on earth. The entire crew hated me and accused me of trying to ruin his career, of being a slut and a liar. Of the 7 other people in that room, no one stood up for me. After the investigation and “trial,” my attacker didn’t receive any kind of punishment for the assault, threats or stalking. The ship’s Captain told me, “If you would’ve let him rape you, then I could’ve helped you. But you didn’t, so there isn’t anything I can do”. I was forced to go on deployment with him, and the entire crew that hated me and reminded me of it often. That deployment was the start of my PTSD.
The End of My Career
Following that deployment, I was sent to therapy. 6 months into therapy, the therapist tole me that I either needed to suck it up and move on OR lose my career, so I sucked it up and buried everything. That worked for a while, until I was assigned to an overbearing and abusive male chain of command. Finally, my command sent me for a psych consult and the psychiatrist diagnosed me with PTSD & Agoraphobia. The Medical Board process started and I knew that my career was going to be over. I was medically retired in October of 2008, 6 years after I enlisted and nearly 5 years after I was assaulted.
My Struggle to Recover
After separation, I struggled with getting my PTSD under control, flunking out of college, not sleeping or eating. Fortunately, my mom and I learned about service dogs helping with PTSD. I wasn’t a candidate for a lot of veteran programs, because my PTSD is not combat related, but we did find one program. The only catch: the program was located across the country in Sacramento, CA. When a puppy became available, I packed up my car and moved to California.
I knew when I met Shadow that my life was going to change in so many good ways, but I’m still amazed everyday by how he impacts my life. He learned to pick up on my body’s actions when I was having a panic attack, when I was disassociating, waking me up from night terrors and also alerting me to changes in my blood sugar levels (I’m a type 1 diabetic). The confidence I have with Shadow is such a freeing experience; I am no longer afraid to go out alone at night, I don’t wake up at every little noise and most of all I am able to connect with people.
Finding My Purpose
Through training Shadow I have found a new purpose for my life; I help other veterans train their own service dogs and am extremely active in the service dog community. I educate and lobby small, local businesses and larger corporations, using my experiences to pave the way for future human/dog teams. I try to use what happened to me to give others hope that they, too, can get through this monster that we call PTSD.
After all of my trauma, I asked God many times, “Why me? How could you let this happen?” I realized a few years ago that it happened so that I would become a stronger woman and so that I could use it to help other people.
Being in Nashville has afforded me a unique opportunity to work with a song writer to write a song telling my story. The title of my song is “A Different Way to Serve”.