I am SCHRIEVER: Survivor turned advocate, Airman

(U.S. Air Force graphic/Senior Airman Naomi Griego)

Senior Airman Amy Yeomans, 50th Operations Support Squadron, is a sexual assault survivor, a mother, a wife, an advocate for her son, a dancer and she is Schriever. Yeomans, who has survived rape, poverty, homelessness, abuse and other hardships has managed to remain optimistic and have a successful career in the Air Force and beautiful family. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Senior Airman Naomi Griego)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- (Editor's Note: "I am SCHRIEVER" is a diversity campaign dedicated to recognizing the diversity within the base as well as highlight the way this diversity makes us stronger and better able to ensure mission success.)

"We slept on the ground with cockroaches in a crammed apartment in the ghetto. We saw shootings and even saw a car explosion once."

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Senior Airman Amy Yeomans, 50th Operation Support Squadron, recounts her life story matter-of-factly. Every instance of grief, struggle and hardship is merely a distant memory.

Yeomans, who is now a mother of two, a special needs advocate for her son, a wife and an Airman, said regardless of her upbringing and current challenges, she is stronger for it.

"When I was eight, I was raped three times over the course of several weeks by someone who my family knew," said Yeomans.

Despite being violated and as a child no less, she said she found forgiveness for her perpetrator.

"It has made me stronger," she said. "I had to push through. I am however, a much more cautious and protective parent because of it."

"Survivors are amongst us," said Paula Krause, 50th Space Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "We don't always know who they are because 75 percent don't even report Department of Defense wide."

Krause said Yeomans is extremely courageous for coming forward to share her story.

"There are many people who have been affected by sexual assault that we don't know about, but we interact with them on a daily basis," she said. "Maybe others will come forward because of her."

Yeomans strives to prevent her children from ever suffering in any way similar to what she has.

Her son Elijah, four, was recently the youngest honorary cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"My son has Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder and other undiagnosed struggles," said Yeomans. "It's not something you outgrow."

Yeomans spends a lot of her time going to support groups and speaking about her son.

"My son is special needs and that makes me an advocate," she said. "I do it because he can't speak for himself."

She said because she went through such a low place in her life she wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

"Yes it's hard, but I am able to help others," she added. "Not everyone understands what we go through and in fact somebody I worked with defriended me because she didn't like hearing me talk about my son, but I didn't let it bother me."

She said as a parent it's hard to hear your child may not be nuero-typical, but ignoring it isn't going to help.

"My advice to other parents who think their child's behavior is not typical is to seek help," she said. "Trust your gut. Instinct proves true."

Yeomans belives her life isn't defined by her struggles.

She was a model in high school and has been a dancer for as long as she can remember.

"I loved modeling but it got to be too expensive," she said. "And since becoming a mom I haven't really had the opportunity to go dancing, but I love it. I've danced everything from ballet, tap and jazz, to bachata, salsa and ballroom. Dance is beautiful and expressive and enchanting."

Yeomans said despite her less than ideal childhood and life, her and her family have remained tight knit.

"The one thing I do remember is my family was extremely close, nothing separated us," she said. "Regardless of where we moved or where we were, we still enjoyed life because we enjoyed each other," she said.