Evelyn Thomas served her country in Army National Guard and the Marines, but when she was stationed at Camp Pendleton the men whom she was supposed to be able to trust with her life betrayed her.
“When I was stationed at Camp Pendleton that’s when I was raped by four Marines when I was outed as a lesbian and I became pregnant,” Thomas said.
Thomas was part of a group of women who joined a military sexual assault advocacy workshop at the American History Theater at the Women’s Museum of California Saturday.
Speakers at the workshop discussed how to file claims, navigate veterans' medical centers and what survivors should expect.
“This is not about being believed or not believed. This is about filling the forms out and following through,” retired veteran’s advocate Susan Avila-Smith said. “They signed a contract saying they would defend the country and part of that contract is ‘we will take care of your medical needs.'”
When Thomas joined in 1986, prior to ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’, gay people like her were not allowed in the military. After her assault when she decided to keep the baby she said the abuse from her unit got worse.
“That’s when a daily emotional, mental and physical abuse started to the point where my body couldn’t deal with it. So my baby was delivered premature and he only lived for one day,” Thomas told NBC 7. “My child was Tajaman Thomas. That’s the name of my son,” Thomas told NBC 7. “This June 14th he would've been 26 years old."
The Department of Defense estimates there were more than 20,000 victims last year alone.
“My child was innocent of this so I advocate for other men and women who do not have the courage yet to begin to share their story,” Thomas explained.
People looking for more information or how to get help can visit Avila-Smith’s website.