Warning Trigger Alert: This story and its subsequent parts describe my experience as a survivor of Rape in the military. It also describes my experience with Cognitive Processing Therapy.
We got as far as the steps to the door with Molina shoving the cup at me the whole way saying, "Drink." And I did if it would keep him happy. When we got to the steps, he said that he thought the pool was around back and that we could get into the hotel that way but should at least check to make sure Chris wasn’t by the pool drunk where she could get caught and we’d all get in trouble. There was that word again. The last thing I wanted to do was get in trouble over a stupid party. I told him we could take a quick look and then I wanted to go back to the room. He handed me the cup again and said, "Here, take a drink."
We walked along the wall of the hotel. Straight ahead was some woods that were not very well lit. Around the corner was supposedly the pool according to Molina. At some point, we should run into the other guy that was supposed to be helping to find Chris. Molina isn’t going to do anything if the other guy could catch him. My anxiety level was through the roof. I could feel my pulse pounding in my head and I felt like running back into the hotel but knew I was too drunk for that. The best course of action was to continue following Molina, don’t piss him off or say anything to give him ideas, and find Chris so we all don’t get in trouble.
We made it to the corner of the building and I started to turn to walk along the back assuming we would find the pool at some point very soon, I hoped. Molina took my hand and started pulling me toward the woods. It was thick with bushes along the grass line and looked dark and dense with saplings and a few larger trees. Little light penetrated. I was panicked. I couldn’t get my hand away from Molina and tried to talk him into looking for the pool. That was what he wanted, so let’s find the pool. I tried to talk him into go the other direction. I didn’t want to check the woods. I didn’t want to go into the woods. I didn’t want to go anywhere with this guy. I didn’t want him to hurt me. I didn’t want to get in trouble. In my mind, in the Army, I would be the one in trouble.
I told him I thought I was going to be sick. I had a funny taste in my mouth like metal or blood. As I write this, I can still taste it in my saliva after twenty years of brushing and rinsing and spitting it out, it is still there. He handed me the cup now half full. I didn’t want to drink and said no. He still had my hand and pulled me into a small clearing between some bushes where the light in the parking lot couldn’t quite reach. He went in first so I thought I was still okay. He can’t shove me to the ground and do anything if I am at the only way out. I pulled against his grip, but he wouldn’t let go. He kept talking to me; reassuring me that he wouldn’t hurt me that everything was going to be okay. I said, "No." I tried to talk him out of whatever he had on his mind and I was trying desperately to find whatever words I could to get him to go back to the hotel. He jerked on my shorts. The button had not been buttoned from when I took the shower and the zipper dropped and my denim shorts followed. He grabbed my hands and sat back on the ground pulling me on top of him. I couldn’t roll to the left or right because of the sharp branches and bushes that dug into my knees. I tried to straddle him so I could push backwards and roll away. I kept saying no and he continued to try to comfort me that he wouldn’t hurt me.
I don’t remember his words anymore but I remember the tone. The calm, gentle, "it’ll be okay" tone mixed with insistence and "we don’t want to get caught" as if we were lovers and I wanted to be there as much as he did. I got my knees to either side of him and leaned back to get a hand hold. He grabbed my arm with one hand and tried shoving himself inside me with the other hand. I said "No" again. He kept pushing himself inside me and I tried to pull away and I tried to lean to the side only to have the bushes bite into my knees. He kept shoving and I couldn’t make him stop. He wasn’t all the way hard and was getting frustrated. I thought if I made a joke about it, he would give up. He didn’t. He tried to get all the way inside me and I did the last thing I could think to do to get him to let me go, I pretended to pass out.
I let my body go limp and didn’t respond. He shook me and then started to push me off of him. I acted like I was waking up when I felt him trying to get out from under me. I got to my feet. He pulled up his shorts. Mine were wrapped around one ankle and I put my other foot in them and pulled them up. He was talking again with that reassuring tone that was making me nauseous. I was trying to think what just happened. What would people say? I didn’t even like the guy. Why? What did I do to deserve this? I walked with my arms crossed tightly across my chest. Halfway back to the building I asked him not to tell anyone as if we had mutually decided to have a little tryst in the shrubbery. I was humiliated and sick to my stomach. I took all the blame on myself for something I couldn’t stop, didn’t want, and didn’t really understand. I had to pretend to be normal. No one could know. Especially no one back home and definitely not the Army.
Michelle Monte is a Professor of English and is working on several essays. She is an assistant editor for Journal of Military Experience 3. Michelle served in the Army and Army Reserve from 1992-2000.