Sexual assault victim details personal account of attack

| June 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
Lt. Col. Matthew Goodman (with microphone), commander, 8th STB, 8th TSC, discusses the important of the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program to a group of more than 275 Soldiers following a documentary about sexual assault in the military, June 20. (Photo by Spc. David Innes, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs)

Lt. Col. Matthew Goodman (with microphone), commander, 8th STB, 8th TSC, discusses the important of the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program to a group of more than 275 Soldiers following a documentary about sexual assault in the military, June 20. (Photo by Spc. David Innes, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs)

Staff Sgt. Gaelen Lowers
8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs

Staff Sgt. Mary Valdez felt disgusting.

She felt dirty. She felt a thousand showers wouldn’t wash away what she was feeling.

After a day of testing at the hospital, she was given two options: file a restricted or an unrestricted report, a choice that could potentially make her experience public.

At the time, she thought, “The guy was only 19, and I didn’t want to ruin his life, but he just ruined mine, with no thought to it.”

Valdez chose the unrestricted route.

The next few months were a roller coaster of reports, emotions, meetings and trials. She felt suicidal and homicidal at the same time. She would burst into tears randomly, but when Valdez went to the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) to give her account, they told her that he’d confessed.

The next month she deployed to Afghanistan. The high tempo helped her forget, but she was required to report back to Hawaii for the trial.

Everything appeared to be on her side: DNA evidence, a confession. But he was acquitted of all charges.

“When they said acquitted, the Soldiers from my rear detachment started high-fiving him. I just had to get out of there. My forward unit wanted me to fly back the next day, but there was no way.

“They see this,” Valdez said, pointing to her rank. “They see (staff sergeant.) They see someone who should’ve known better. I may have put myself in a situation, but I wasn’t doing anything. I didn’t invite him into my room.”

Valdez was about done with the Army.

“I remember thinking to myself; I will never be able to put on that uniform again. But the passion and the love I have for the Army was much greater.”

A senior NCO told Valdez she could hate the Army, get out and never look back, but to first think about all the years she’d dedicated to it and to ask herself if she wanted to throw it all away.

But she also gave Valdez an alternative: new unit, new base … a new start.

“I think that is what I was waiting to hear. I thought, when can I put my uniform back on?”

She said the support she felt from her new unit helped her move forward.

“My new command sergeant major asked me, ‘What can I do for you?’ and I told him that I wanted to help other people who have been through what I’ve been through. Six months later I was training to become a SHARP victim advocate.”

It was that new beginning she’d longed for, the chance to be a living example of personal courage each and every time she shares both her pain and hope for change.

In February, Valdez was selected to represent the Army during the Department of Defense Survivor’s Summit, where she met one-on-one the director of the DOD Sexual Assault and Response Office.

“I can’t believe I’m actually getting the opportunity,” she said, through more tears. “It’s very bittersweet to me. This is like my justice.”

(Editor’s note: Valdez serves as the 8th Theater Sustainment Command’s protocol noncommissioned in charge.)

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Category: News, Training

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