A Sexual Assault Survivor's View: What Did I Survive?

Lt. Col. Melissa Krambeck, 45th Space Wing director of wing inspection

Lt. Col. Melissa Krambeck, 45th Space Wing director of wing inspection

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Editor's note: this is part two in an eight-part series about sexual assault awareness.

I am a survivor of a traumatic sexual assault.

I was raped 20 years ago, and I still relive the rape when reminders trigger my memories. It took me 19 years to disclose the details of my assault outside my immediate family.

An Airman I knew in technical training school snuck into my dorm room after I had gone to sleep and raped me.

My rape was quiet. I said "no, stop" many times, but my cries were ignored by the rapist and I froze. I could feel my tears running down the sides of my eyes into my ears, and I zoned out while he did whatever he wanted to my body.

I was able to suppress this traumatic event for many years (with a little mental health maintenance here and there after an occasional trigger affected me). However, in 2012 I hit a wall of new triggers as they became a part of my everyday life.

After hitting this wall, my nightmares became ceaseless and after two weeks without sleep, I was so completely exhausted and emotionally drained that I had a crying spell after leaving sick call (my second trip to sick call to address my inability to sleep).

I declined much needed quarters so I could participate in an orientation briefing for a new wing leader. As soon as I realized I couldn't make it to the orientation in time to participate, I started crying because I felt I was letting my team down. I called my supervisor to report my inability to attend the orientation because my doctor's appointment took longer than I expected, so I would be late and I hadn't slept for two weeks. I rambled on and told him I was having nightmares due to a past sexual assault.

I survived being raped, I survived using avoidance as a coping method for many years, and I survived telling my supervisor I was sexually assaulted when this coping method failed me.

What you can do: 1) Don't label sexual assault survivors as "victims"--we are survivors. 2) Your response to every sexual assault survivor should be: "I'm sorry," "It's not your fault," and "What can I do to help?" This response to a survivor's report of a sexual assault was taught to our 45th Space Wing members by Mr. Jeff Bucholt, Director of We End Violence, and I agree!

About the Author:
This is an event in my life I want to share with you so you can gain insight from my experience as part of the "Story Teller's Campaign." As part of the "Every Airman has a Story Campaign, I am a confident young lady--I like to ensure I leave every program I touch better than I found it. I am and have been many things: a mother, sister, wife, daughter, snowboarder, adventure racer, motorcycle rider, leader, program manager, engineer, physicist, Air Liaison Officer, United Nations Military Observer and US delegate to NATO. My philosophy is "bloom where planted and never ignore something you can fix or influence fixing." I teach and empower my team members to be better than me. Finally, I can make a difference and so can you.