The Government Accountability Office released a report Tuesday saying almost half of all service members think people would get away with sexual harassment, even if it was reported.
According to the report, the Defense Department has a longstanding policy of preventing sexual harassment, but in practice there's a lack of commitment within its leadership. That may be why the Department of Veterans Affairs is finding more veterans coming home with PTSD from Military Sexual Trauma, than from combat.
Andriele Stodden said she was 20 when she joined the Marine Corps. Six years into her service, she saw herself as a tough Marine. She had completed multiple deployments, loading bombs on planes for combat. And the men were her brothers. One night, she said that changed.
"He was a staff sergeant, he was in charge of a lot of marines,” she said. “He was supposed to take care of people."
Stodden had been out blowing off steam with friends, and eventually found herself alone with a male Marine. She was recovering from a broken arm, and she said he easily overpowered her.
"He held my wrists with one hand you know he just put them both above my head and held them with one hand."
Stodden's virginity was taken from her that night.
Her symptoms are shared by many who have experienced Military Sexual Trauma or MST. The VA reports that one in five women and one in 100 men seen at Veterans Health facilities have experienced MST. It's a psychological trauma that can be caused by sexual harassment. Stodden's friend helped her report the rape to her superiors, but she says the military's training could be better.
"It’s like they put it on us – it’s our fault – we have to be the preventative for ourselves,” she said.
Stodden is on the road to recovery. She says she'll always be proud of being a U.S. Marine, but that MST has forever changed her,
"I have PTSD from this and its' never gonna go away - it’s like good days, bad days, you know,” she said. “Like anything could trigger it."
Stodden hopes that sharing her story will encourage others who have experienced MST to reach out to the military or the VA for help. Another source for those on active duty who don't feel comfortable going to their command is online at www.militaryonesource.com.