By Patricia Florez Ritchie
I haven’t wanted to comment on this, but my conscience is getting the best of me….
As a young soldier 1994, I was a victim of Military Sexual Assault. I was young and I had just come back from Somalia. I thought I should have been strong enough to fend him off. I did not report to the chain of command because he was in my company. I did seek therapy and it is documented.
During those days we weren’t told about advocates for victims or victim services. Thanks to my previous work with victims and a good VA therapist I now know better and acknowledge that I am a survivor and healed by His Grace.
The Army has to be accountable for the slow response to missing soldiers. We are better than this. It has to do better today because they are now educated in this issue. I am proud to have chosen this branch to serve in but I understand LULAC’s call for justice and answers in the disappearance and death of soldier Vanessa Guillen. My heart is broken because being in the U.S. Army molded me to be the Latina leader that I am today.
Being a survivor has enabled me to be stronger, vigilant, but at the same time aware of my surroundings. Unfortunately because of sexual assault in the military I do deal with post traumatic stress syndrome but I have learned to cope with it and I’ve learned how to heal daily. Like I said it’s by the grace of God that I am healing.
I think what’s important in this message is that I remind survivors, and those that haven’t come forward that there are services. There are people willing to help. Active military think that if you’re in the military you can only go to military resources for services, but that’s not true for victim services. They don’t charge Tricare – military insurance. You still have the right to go into the civilian sector and use the local state services. They too will help you. It’s not that you’re regulated to have to stay within the army services or whatever service branch that you are in.
Know that there are others who understand. know that there are others that will advocate for you and that will make things move so that you get the services that you need because you are vital. As survivors you deserve those services by state and federal law and that’s most important that we get that word out now. As my VA therapist has said although it was a horrible tragedy for me to have to go through, the best thing that came out of it was me being able to support and help other survivors to know what services that are needed and have access available to them. I dedicated 9.5 years of doing this for victims of trauma. In my next sector as I work in the legal field. I continue to do the same thing in the way that I choose to serve my community, thank you.
Patricia is a member of the Crawford County Board of Health, the vice president of the Denison LULAC Council, she serves on the Crawford County Chamber and Economic Development as the first vice president and a Latina leader in her community.
If you are or know a victim of Sexual Abuse you can get help here:
IOWA VICTIM SERVICE CALL CENTER:
OR TEXT “IOWAHELP” TO 20121
Free & Confidential Phone Services