When I was 21, I became a Jane Doe. As an Army recruit, I was subjected to harassment and sexual assault by men who were my superiors.
My personal experiences with trauma rose to the surface again during the recent House ethics committee hearing about another Jane Doe, this one a 19-year-old legislative intern and young mom, who reported being sexually assaulted by now former Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger.
This struck me to my core. Because I, like too many other female veterans, know what she’s going through. And it’s awful. It’s why I founded the Idaho Female Veterans Network in 2017.
Rep. Priscilla Giddings who is an Air Force major and prominent recruiter of young people throughout Idaho. Given the attention paid to sexual assault in the military, to say she knew better than to participate in publicly identifying and shaming the brave Jane Doe who came forward with her experience is an understatement. That’s why Idaho Female Veterans Network is calling on the Air Force to take the following actions against Rep. Giddings:
- The U.S. Air Force should exercise its zero-tolerance policy and re-open and/or review any sexual assault claim or report that involved Maj. Giddings in any way.
- This should include re-opening any cases where anyone in Giddings’ chain of command or anyone in any of her units were investigated for a sexual assault allegation.
- The Uniform Code of Military Justice charges should be brought against her for actions unbecoming of an officer.
The trauma of sexual assault doesn’t end when the assault is over. It took me 15 years to begin healing from the trauma and retaliation I endured while on active duty, and in the interim, like too many veterans, I battled homelessness, addiction, relationship struggles and even suicide attempts. Everything that was so painful about my experience was mirrored in Jane Doe’s. People in positions of power tricked and abused me, and my brothers and sisters in the military turned against me in retaliation for reporting what happened to me.
I was locked in a small building where women — yes, women — in leadership positions, would come in and ask if I had changed my story and wanted to tell the truth now. The truth was clear, but it wasn’t their truth. That is, not the truth they wanted to hear.
Unlike Jane Doe, it took just a few days of this torture to break me. They threatened my future relationships with my children who were back home in Idaho, and they took my military ID card, which back then, had my Social Security number on it so “they will always know where to find me.” I finally changed my story and told them what they wanted to hear. Soon after, I was given a discharge from the U.S. Army, stating I had a “pre-existing condition,” and I was not fit to be a soldier. They deemed me crazy. They deemed me unworthy. My medical records from the night of the rape kept my secret safe and allowed me to receive much needed services which began in 2015. They had forgotten to get rid of those.
In 2017, I began to fight back. After a few years of trauma therapy, treatment and coming to terms with what had happened to me, I started listening to stories of other men and women who had faced similarly disturbing traumas. Idaho Female Veterans Network was formed, and in 2018, I spoke for the first time publicly about my trauma.
Maj. Giddings was there when I spoke, and she listened to me and several other women share our stories of trauma and retaliation. Adding to the painful irony, at this very event, she was awarded female veteran of year for her outstanding performance as a veteran.
In retrospect, that feels like a slap in the face to me, as well as to the legislative intern brave enough to come forward despite Giddings’ ongoing doxxing, abuse and humiliation. It’s an affront to the thousands of Idahoans, veterans and civilians who have experienced sexual assault. Her conduct is unquestionably unbecoming of a lawmaker and a member of the U.S. Air Force. Rep. Giddings must be held accountable by her peers in the legislature and the military. For me, Jane Doe, and all the Jane Does to follow.
This story was originally published May 18, 2021 9:56 AM.