the victim…and the judge

me on the USS Vulcan

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The ways to connect the story which happened to me in 1969-70 are legion. Indeed as one can tell from reading the past years worth of work written in this forum-the story is complicated to put together,it tells of a complicated life.
The young sailor in the photographs is me. My age in these pictures is just a few months into 18. I weighed around 120. I was a naive young man-really just a boy-not ready to make majestic decisions…still trying to figure out who I was and what I was going to do in my life.
In these photos,one can see the youth in my face-you can see how skinny I was.
I was in just a short time going to have my life changed…forever.

My crime was nothing. There was no crime…only innocent choices-my choice was the mistake I made by trying to go home and wish my family ‘happy’ new years…
It is all so complicated-yet it is all so simple…
The events this new years week end-so you understand my crime-are thus…I worked a job on the ship which allowed me every night off. Our ship was entering the holiday seasons-Thanksgiving,Christmas-and New Years. The ship was divided into three groups for time home-my group had the new years weekend. I had a liberty pass for that weekend beginning Saturday morning and ending Monday…that year Monday was new years eve. And yes-I had that Friday night off too-only required to be in an attendence call first thing Saturday at 0700.
A dumb idea stirred in my head that I could catch the liberty bus to Washington DC and rush home to surprise my family and turn around and get the return bus-go to roll call…and turn around and get another liberty bus to Washington and remain through the rest of my liberty at my parents home just out side of the city.
It snowed-a blizzard to intense it made the record books. I was stuck at the Greyhound station in the city center. Nothing was going to be moving-bus…it was stuck.
I did the proper thing-I reported myself to the military liaison at the bus station and they telephoned the ship and explained that I was stuck-and because I had a legal liberty pass I was given the go ahead to continue on and enjoy the holiday….everything-all my bases-were covered.

I have no true idea how things went so wrong.
My brother was sent to arrest me-he arrived at our parents home the next day. I was stationed on the same ship with Frank…he never liked that idea.
By the time the weekend had ended I found myself in a detention barracks…there I met my attackers and there my life was forever different-changed by the assaults on my young body.

For all of the years I suffered with the memory of barracks D-I never imagined anyone would ever be interested in sorting out the truth-I lived being considered a liar by my family-as well as a failure. Never did they ask for my side of the story.
I can tell you-I never thought it would ever be of interest to anyone ever again.
I lived with it in silence-although it raged inside of me loud and clear.

For my crime I was subjected to daily humiliation-for nearly two months I was ‘shared’ by my assailents…made to do what they forced me to do-traded me for cigerettes and soda money. I was made to pretend I was a girl-and forced to do things in a feminine way…crime and punishment.

After the Navy discharged me-with an ‘honorable’ discharge…I was not given an open door at my family home. I failed and was considered a trouble maker-an influence I suppose my parents did not want to expose my younger brother to…so I made my way to Florida and to the rest of my life trying to understand the confusion in my mind.

I am an older man now. It is 37 years since then….the officer that I reported this to-the rapes..told me to ‘get used to it’.
That never has happened.

By some strange twist of fate-my story came to the attention of the local veterans hospital near my home. Things grew from that-and it was suggested I seek justice. I never thought that could be possible.
Now-after three years after I filed a claim with the local veterans office…I have seen a judge.
I had worked in my head over and over in anticipation the way I was going to tell my story…it has been my life every day-so it is not something that can be compressed in just two hours time. It is about two months of tortured humiliation and 37 years of torture because of how the events in barracks D changed me. How can I put it into understanding to another in just two hours?
The judge asked me what had changed…I could not get it out that each time I need to go to a restroom I felt such fear that if someone was in there too I chose to live with discomfort-holding my bladder or my bowels until some other time. The deja vu of being assaulted in a urinal enters my senses each time a restroom door closes behind me. I could not get it out that each time a stranger approaches me I feel the sensation of someone putting thier hands around my neck and squeeze the ability to talk out of me…all the things I wanted to say came out so fast and jumbled I am not sure if I made sense.

I was driven to my hearing by a woman who works with children who suffer from PTSD. She is a mental health therapist. We sat in front of the judge with my attorney. If these two people had not been with me I would not have had my time spent wisely…the things I needed to say would have never gotten out. I was too concerned about the welfare of the woman who drove me-afraid some terrible thing would happen before we returned home to safety-and concerned that I was taking too much of my attorneys time,after all…we had to travel so far to get to this hearing. I kept myself concerned over the welfare of others…
Now that it is over…now the hearing date has come and gone-I am thankful for them being there for me. My life was explained to this judge to full understanding the way the time in barracks D crippled me-forever.

I was asked what I wanted. I told the judge that money was never going to change anything-ever. I asked for a letter to be written to my father…my father who soon will be gone-lost to his illness of cancer,who will one day die not knowing I was not the failure he concluded I must have been. My father who only heard one side of the story.

I was told yesterday that two hours was unusual. I was told these hearings usually lasted about twenty minutes,or at best a half an hour. The judge heard me through my attorney and the therapist who went as my friend and supporter.
I was able to tell the judge that this-if victorious…would be a victory for others who have endured the pain and fear and struggles a sexual assault survivor lives with. It will be a victory to show others that it is possible to battle those who hurt us and take back our power-which we had lost the moment we were attacked. Hopefully it will encourage other survivors to come forward and seek justice too.

Money is never the replacement. There is nothing that can give us back what we lost. I know the letter to my father is way over due. If it arrives in time before he dies…it will not give us back what all of us lost as a family,it will not give me a relationship with a man who I wanted so much to prove myself to. My father.

I do not have an end to this.
It will most likely be several months before a final determination is made…then,as the complexity of government works-slowly,a rejection notice will come-and an appeal process will begin-that should take many months more. I never will be able to replace the relationship with my Dad-his letter might come one day…but doubt that he will be able to read it is certain.
So there it goes.

3 Responses to “the victim…and the judge”

  1. A Says:

    Good luck with everything!

  2. Austin Says:

    This is heroic in a way that no soldier (a soldier being a survivor who fights to heal) can ever know unless they themselves sat in your chair.

    You make me cry sir. You really do. It must have been so hard to sit there, mind unsure of what to say, how to say it. Then to realize they gave you so much more time than usual hearings must have been reassuring in some way.

    It is my opinion that those who hurt you are responsible for crimes against your family too, crimes for adding an extra rift between you. I doubt there is a law to answer to on that point but still, it too needs to be recognized.


  3. jayherron Says:

    Your comments are so valuable to me-thank you.

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