Archive for December, 2008

December 30, 2008

Today…39 years ago

ijay   Today is sunk in my memory forever, Last night I woke at 0200 from the nightmare. Today I will sag from depression-all week I have been worn tired from anxiety. My anniversary of entering barracks D  is today. At around 0200 tomorrow morning I will live that moment in time for the rest of my life.

As I have written in these pages for nearly three years-I am a male rape survivor. Because my rapes took place while on active duty in the US Military-I have the distinction of being a survivor of ‘military sexual trauma’ or MST. I also suffer from ‘post traumatic stress disorder’ or PTSD.

I am having a difficult time thinking of what to say-I have been awake since 0200 and that from fleeing a horrid dream, a dream about incarceration. My assaults took place while I was in barracks D,a detention barracks-my crime? I had done nothing!

The details of my life are recorded in this journal. I never intended to write about it like this-on the computer for anyone to see…but things happened which changed my silence.

Because my assaults happened while in military service-the story needs to  be told,and because I am a male-the story needs to be told.

If you find this journal and decide to read you will find all aspects of my life. You will learn I couldn’t hold a job-although I worked hard all of my life. You will learn that I have had a life long battle with sobriety-finding that escape in drugs only meant that the issue still was alive the next day. You will learn that I have lived a life fearful of public places-and people.

I am having difficulty writing this morning. The event 39 years ago makes me emotional-and I am tired of waking up and the first thing I think of is barracks D. I am tired -period!

I find it ironic-the day after tomorrow I am going to be standing on a military base-an actual US Marine ‘boot camp’ at Paris Island. I will be proud to be there-it will make me sad, but yet proud. I am ending this year of 2008 exonerated from wrongdoing by the Veterans Administration. It seems appropriate that God will have me begin my New Year-this new year- standing on a military base.

Peace

what’s next…?

December 27, 2008

023

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

We come to the end of the year. To those of you who have read my writings you already know that the marking of the new year know that my life was changed forever on December 31,1969-about 0200 in the morning. New Years eve.

The things I relate in my story here are about my life as a male rape survivor. They aren’t just a journal about the attacks-there was life in between then and now….it just wasn’t particularly normal. What I hope for them to be is to express what it is like-to educate about one mans life with PTSD.

I never intended to come this far-to write about it. Once upon a time I vowed there would never be a computer in my house. I see that has changed. Still, I never meant to come this far. It seems it is not over.

What stayed silent in me for 30 plus years came out by anger over being prescribed drugs for my having bouts with depression. I had spent much of my adult life fighting drugs and alcohol-trying to be sober…mostly because I found the drugs and drinking my way of hiding my life,yet each morning-there it was. I had spent too much time trying to live life more clearer-to work at being drug free and free of drinking every day.

I was prescribed anti-depressant after a routine visit at the Veterans hospital in my area. They asked a question…”are you depressed”? and I answered “sometimes”. They gave me a bottle of pills-those pills made me feel high.

I wrote a letter to the VA Hospital explaining that I was not going to take the medicine-I told them why, just like I said here-why hide the problem with a drug? That was the first time I ever mentioned being raped.

My rape and continual sexual assaults happened while I was in the US Navy.

Because of this connection-the VA offered therapy and through that therapy I learned that I should appeal for disability benefits. I was told that I deserved them.

When I met the Veterans Affairs advocate who was to represent me in finding  justice-the man made comments that concluded being raped and male made the whole scene a homosexual event-he commented that it was “surprising that homosexuals needed to rape each other”…he also concluded my attackers were black and showed surprise when I said that was wrong.

After that I could not remain silent. I felt  violated once again. I remember the officer that interviewed me the morning of my rape saying “get used to it” when he discovered that I had been attacked. It wasn’t hard to notice-my uniforms were damp with urine-my face bruised and obviously afraid.

I could not believe the ignorence that came across from a man who was supposed to be my advocate and stand up and speak for me. How could he be sincere-he knew nothing of what I was telling him.

After calming down-my anger about this remained. How many other veterans-survivors of sexual trauma-have experienced this bigotry and ignorance? How many stay away and never say a word all because of the fear this would happen?

My anger made me buy a computer and learn how to use it to reach others-to tell my story, and to tell the story of countless others. I also learned how to use the computer to reach those who should hear us…the silent wounded.

We have made strides in our goal. I look forward to see how the coming year will turn about-how since I first bought this computer three years ago has found being invited to Washington DC. It is in Washington that I am hopeful to convey our story to those who can make change.

Just three weeks ago I spoke with Joan Esnayra who founded PsychDogs, an Arlington Virginia based foundation that teaches veterans with PTSD to train service dogs to assist them in daily life. I explained to Joan my experience with rape and PTSD and the experience I had with the Veterans Affairs advocate-I told her my ideas for change and how wrong it is to know there is a large number of military veterans suffering because of PTSD resulting from sexual trauma. Military Sexual Trauma-MST.

I also explained to Joan that I am hopeful to meet with Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite and her Chief of Staff to discuss this and how those survivors who are silent and suffering – have also had their civil rights violated.

Through this conversation Joan introduced me to Steve Robinson-via telephone. Steve understood everything I said-and hears us! Mr.Robinson will prove to be a valuable helpmate in our battle-he is the former aid to Donald Rumsfeld (former Secretary of Defense) who exposed the scandal at Walter Reed Veterans Hospital in Washington DC.  Mr Robinson has promised to pick up the rod with me after the holiday season returns us back to normal-and after the hub bub of the inauguration is over in Washington.

What is hopeful in all of this is that we can make a change in the Veterans Administration to provide those who are the silent wounded a sensitive ear and advocate to assist the veteran in getting what is rightfully theirs-justice, and equal rights!

To be among the silent wounded-to know the shame and guilt that comes along with the memories. I never thought my hurt would work towards this direction. I always thought it would be my secret-kept shut up with in. I never knew my anger would erupt like this-from the very facility that’s in place to help veterans came hurt.  But it has made me see the need to change this for every survivor of the humiliation of MST.

can we go back and get it better next time?

December 22, 2008

My Father 1922-2007

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

It has been one year today since my father passed. I am confounded as what to say.

I know what I wish. I wish we could go back and do it over again-to try and see if it could be different, to see if it could be changed.

I know what I wonder as my mind ponders the thoughts of him now knowing as if some kind of mystical  translation takes place as one passes where all is shown and everything is finally understood. I wonder if he knows.

Last year when I wrote a dedication to my father it was the same time of day and the same darkness outside,the light of day had not yet broken. I know then my words could not detail the way that I love my father, nor can I find the words today that can explain.

It is an odd sort of date-today’s date. Two years ago this date my mother spoke to me on the telephone telling me how my father and her were trying to find a holiday gathering they had been invited to. It was raining and my father had a hard time finding the address-blinded by the rain my father sideswiped a parked truck. Later when they found the address my father had intended to go in and apologize and excuse themselves from attending. Instead Dad had fallen right outside of the car and sat there for a length of time before somebody had seen him.

I could not hear this story from my mother. As she told it to me my heart was wrenching inside of me from the helplessness of it all and compounded with the memory of my father sitting in the street 40 some years ago holding the dying body of my smallest brother-his body crushed by an automobile. I wept as I begged her to quit giving me this account of my father sitting in the street, in the rain.

Like depression you try to take and block everything out-closing the drapes to darken the room and hiding the rest of you under the covers of the bed, and it is still there-just darker.  The memories of things you want to go away.

Years ago there was a rock and roll song by a group called Mike and the Mechanic’s. It was a song about a mans wish that he told his father things while he was still alive-that he loved him. The song was called ‘In the Living Years’. I remember last year driving up to see Dad with my son and his family-we knew it was close time time for him to go. I had a lot that I would have liked to have told him-I did say “I love you”-and he mumbled “I love you” back, the last words he ever spoke to me.

Back when that song came out-I guess it was in the 1980’s…I heard it and it moved me to think of my own father. I loved my father-and I knew he loved us. That was shown to me the day our brother was killed.

I heard the song and drove to Orlando to Dad’s to tell him I loved him-but that night he looked at me as if I was nuts,he did not say “I love you” too.

My father never knew the real reasons I enlisted in the Navy. The most highest of them was to turn my life around-to get it better. Life in the high school days were not smooth at home-nor in school, so the Navy had the answer.

I don’t understand everything there is to know about the Holy Bible. I do realize enough to know that brothers were put up against brothers in many chapters of the book-and there are many other pestilences that come against man. I never really thought about it until I learned  later how true it all is. My experience with my brother in the Navy proves it is so.

I never will know what my brother told my father-I don’t know what it is that my father believed. I do know what my father never knew-and that is the truth.

It seems ironic-and it might as well be so, that my father dies right at the crixmix season. My whole life in my memory evolves around the so called season of cheer. I tried to come home my first Christmas away from home-I had legitimate permission to be there…although,my Christmas was going to wait until New Years-that’s the way the ship was divided up. My surprise was planned on miscalculation. I had thought I could stretch out the holiday by a few extra hours and still be aboard ship for roll call. I did not count on snow-and it snowed the worse it had in a hundred years that night. Fortunately-the hours I tried to stretch were the beginning hours of my leave-not my ending. That was about the only thing fortunate.

I’ll never know what the conversation was between my brother and our father-all I know is my brother was sent by the ships master at arms (police) to arrest me.

I know what my father might have been told. I also know what he never knew-that the Navy was going to help me continue my education, or so I was told. He never knew how proud I was to be there-how much it meant to me and that I had planned to make the Navy a career. The Navy made promises-my brother worked to tear them down.

How many times must I weep about what happened? Thinking about today exhausted me yesterday-and this morning I woke earlier than usual-my dreams were erratic and bizarre, as often-about prison. I woke this morning doing exactly as I have for every day since my first day at barracks D-an inventory of my memory slams me the moment I awake,as it must-since I dreamt about it all night. I cannot go to  the bathroom with out remembering. I cannot shower with out being reminded. I cannot go through my day with out the memory.

How much more can be added to the next week of total reminders-my rapes in barracks D began on the last day of December-and the day had not even but just begun,it was just around two in the morning. I can always remember the New Year,all the crixmix jungle of trees and glitter-all of it like a festering sore. And the father I wanted so much to please -dies.

So, from where I sit I look out through the glass doors to the east. The sky is reddish orange from the sun rising. I am grateful for its beauty on this morning coming as if a a mystical message from my father is there-along with a Spiritual message,saying “I know”. At least I can get that peace from it.

angels…

December 15, 2008

sunrise

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

In the bible the book of Psalms 91 vs.11 it says there are angels in charge of us-in charge of  our protection.

I know I’m not the person to explain what all of this means because there are doubts of a God or angels…but I know they exist.

It was angels that put my hand on the car door that delivered me to Florida in 1970.

The day I had left home in the suburbs of Washington was a fateful day in my future. I had spent the earlier part of the day being interrogated by the police. I had been an unwilling accomplice in some thefts. I was not a thief-I was just being made to be one, I being strong armed into doing it-my enforcer reaping all of the benefits, and I was left to pay the price.

It was easy in those days to manipulate me like that. A person really had no reason to twist my arm behind my back-just a small threat would make me thiers. I had been trained that in barracks D-only months earlier.

The police had  given me the night to think about it-was I going to jail alone…or was I going to tell them who was helping me? Helping me? It was so ironic.

That night I went to a going away party. I did’nt know the person who was going away-at that, I did not know I was going too. The fellow the party was for was leaving that  night for Florida. Angels guided me to that car-and I accepted the ride.

I never knew what the outcome was at the department store where I worked. The police knew who was the one that was with me-they just wanted me to point my finger at him so we would go to jail together,24 hours after the interview I was sitting in Jacksonville Florida.

I had no destination but fortunately the angels reminded me there was someone who I could connect with in Gainesville Florida. My host and driver agreed to drive me there-where I spent my first day in Florida in a Jewish cemetery.

I made my connection later that night-Fathers Day June 1970.

It was angels that led me to Micanopy Florida. The following morning I met several of them in person.

If I had not met these people-if I had not escaped the future I had in the DC area…my life would had never had hope.

In the bible-God has many names. One of those names is the BRANCH. It is so true-the branch,and how it connects.

My friend Bill Schaaf is the same age as my brother Frank. Frank was my brother who however manipulated the circumstances that sent me to barracks D. All of my life of knowing Bill I’ve never known any thing else but goodness and love. Sometimes life goes through several months and I might not see Bill-but when we do see each other it is a space of time that flows with goodness.

I met Bill in my first few months of being a resident of Micanopy. Micanopy in that time of the 70’s was becoming an artists commune-and the hippie nature of the art folk was of true peace and love-always real,always positive-always teaching.

Why I relate to God being sometimes spoken of as the BRANCH is how the friendship of Bill and my life in Micanopy in those days grew. Through the years how connections were made that led back to the original base. Keeping a source of goodness through the first meeting of the angels in Micanopy on through to today-and I know onward.

My course was going along the wrong path back then. I was broken with my experience in barracks D. It was easy for me to fall victim only weeks after being freed. I was used to it by then and my thief boss was leading me right back to another kind of space-jail,and the way I was broken in barracks D I would have been kept that way forever physically,worse than I am now mentally.

When I met the artists in Micanopy they all accepted me with love,although I’m not so sure it was as clear to me then-I know it is so now. If I had not had that welcome spirit of love I don’t think I would have made it to now.

I keep wanting to show you the BRANCH.

I have recently begun to help Bill around his studio-helping sort it out and clean it up for a sale of his art. This weekend was the event-and I spent both days present.

Yesterday was a sweet warm Florida fall day. I arrived at the gathering mid-afternoon and found the same peace as I found in Summer of 1970. I am blessed that I found Micanopy and the angels that led me there.

The way things grow-as the way of a branch on a tree.

Last year a friend accompanied me to my hearing in St.Petersburg with the VA Judge. I had only made acquaintances with her a few years earlier with the survivors art program-but through that we became friends. She is also a therapist-and was well heard in my case as she explained to the Judge her impression of my distress.

I did not know last year the power this friendship would possess-I did not really know that it was going to be, but angels did.

Some ways to understand how all of this works are not mine to know. My friend Bill is also friends with my therapist friend. The BRANCH reaches out. The same kind of goodness and love that came from all of those in Micanopy is the same kind of goodness and love this lady has-and the man she loves, his goodness radiates the same spirit.

I was too wild and out of control in my mind in those days in 1970 to see it as clearly as I see it now-but even from that point I never swayed from my belief it was a divine intervention that took me to that going going away party. I have always been thankful for that chance I was given to become a part of the branch that includes these people-my friends.

Yesterday at Bill’s studio we all were there and as the afternoon came to an end I was invited to visit my therapist friend and her husband at their home-just a short trip from Bill’s studio.

In the silence place in my head I was thinking how fascinating it was-how all of this comes together, the goodness and the peace. We sat there like kids in school eating popcorn and oranges and I was thrilled to be there and in awe of how things all come around.

In Psalm 34 vs.6 & 7 says that the angel of God camps around us.  I really believe if we look we see them.

truth…

December 7, 2008


hand built by Jim

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

I met a man the other night-his name was Jim. Jim is 64 years old-and it appears he is quite a craftsman. Jim built the automobile you see in the photograph-he knows this automobile from every nut and bolt and cotter pin to axle rod,after all-he began building this in 1955 when he was just 11 years old.
I need to point out-this is a one of the kind type of car-it is not a restored antique-it is built out of parts from various automobiles and as he told me-many handmade parts.

I have a great amount of respect for Jim and the meaning of this automobile. Jim has driven the car up to the New England states-and is not going to hesitate to drive it to Utah to the great Bonneville flats where machines are taken to test their ability for speed. Jim told me the engine in this car came from a 1946 Ford-a V8 that has proved itself to keep up with the engines of today. I was told the car will reach high speeds with no effort.
As a former trucker I understand the need for a driver to know his machine is paramount-and this is a man who knows his machine. How impressive it is to be able to understand every element of the car you are driving-and if any kind of breakdown occurs the repairs are just a part of nature because every part is known distinctly by the builder operator. Everything is known by this one man completely.

Jim’s car is like the truth. When you have truth-nothing can be changed.
Many cars of today have parts that can be inner changed-sometimes a certain piece might be discontinued and needs replacing with a substitute part. That would not be the case with this machine.
If Jim’s car was to need a newer parts to replace something worn he has the knowledge to ask the parts man for the exact part number-he knows everything about this car. That is because it is in fact-there is nothing that could change it.

The truth is the same way-it is in fact unchangeable.

It is an odd sort of tragedy to live your life knowing the truth yet others believe it in another way. What bothers me is that something so perfect as the truth can go unknown.

My recent awarding of the acknowledgment that I was innocent and I had done nothing-the words  ‘no wrongdoing’, come too late. It pleases me that the military acknowledges my innocence but there is so much missing.

I am like Jim. As he is the only one man who knows every square inch of his automobile-each bolts thread type,each cotter pins size. I am certain he can pull every spot on his car up into his memory. I know every square inch of my life-my memory and my truth.

I have lived in the shadow of my short life in the Navy-short life with an eternal memory of it emblazoned in my living days. All of my life since then has been completely in line with then. As I woke up today remembering-I woke up yesterday remembering and I know I will wake up tomorrow and remember. With all of that comes the guilt that should not exist-the shame I should not have, and the misery that it always is.

Like Jim’s car-the truth is always the same. I am thankful to be vindicated. It is a relief of some measure that my military service was with out fault-I am rightfully an honorably discharged veteran. But it does not change the truth. There is a part of the truth that will never heal. There is some measure of the truth that will not allow the scale to balance. It is the parts that my father never knew-or my mother never knew…the truth was missing to them.

I wanted more than anything to be able to show my father the papers that are signed by a Judge exoneratingme of wrongdoing. Just that small part would have meant so much. It still wouldn’t have told all of the truth…it would not have told him how every day at  barracks D was met by me as a victim,although the papers acknowledge it happened-they cannot tell the truth of it of how those days crippled me.

The act of the rape 39 years ago did not end when my attackers were gone. It continued every moment since. It damaged something everyday-it took away so much, it ruined everything. When my father died last year his death was interfered with by the hand of the serpent that has held me ever since the last day of 1969. It even damaged that.

The truth? Why it has had to be so painful I cannot know. But I do know that I stood up with my truth and held somebody accountable and they agreed to the fault. And if I am to trust God as I do then my father now knows the truth and sees what happened.

about face…10 years

December 2, 2008

about face…
Originally uploaded by jayfherron

 

I have let most of the day go by sitting in my own world listening to Leonard Cohen singing about the woman with the “tea with orange and roses” and then my mind struck the date.
I have not forgotten the woman Rose. I will never forget her or this date.

How strange and in a surreal way that it happened that listening to the depth of the words Leonard Cohen sings made me collect myself and look at the calender.

How hard it is to think of my part in Roses life. My nightmares of prisons haunt me enough with out having been involved with this woman’s own incarceration. Her crime became a part of my life.

I felt this strangeness-the freedom I have to sit here and listen to Cohen’s music at my own will. The man Rose murdered does not have that freedom-and Rose does not have that freedom,and here I am feeling remorse,I don’t understand.

I did nothing to this woman-and I cannot understand why it is I was to be the one who was to be her Judas,what punishment it is. I have never felt settled about this. I did not know the man she killed with out remorse of her own-she escaped prison four times. And yet now 10 years later the thought of her life entwined with mine still disturbs me.

How can you wish some one well who is to spend her full life in prison? Why should I want to? Yet-I feel badly for her…the woman who served tea with orange and roses reminded me of her.