Why I wear teal: We all face hardship

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tori Jennings, a 354th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, also serves as a Victim Advocate for Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Victim Advocates are available throughout the wing to provide support to a victim after a sexual assault. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tori Jennings, a 354th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, also serves as a Victim Advocate for Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Victim Advocates are available throughout the wing to provide support to a victim after a sexual assault. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ashley Nicole Taylor/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Editor's note: this story is part of a series featuring Victim Advocates across the 354th Fighter Wing. To view the previous story, click here.

Imagine a 17-year-old girl, naïve and sheltered by her parents who has had no interaction with guys. When she turned 17 her parents let her start dating, yet no one seemed interested in her. Then one day on Facebook, a guy messaged her and said he wanted to meet her. "It's okay," he said, "we went to elementary school together."

She checked her old yearbooks to verify and saw it was the truth. This was the first guy that wanted to hang out without a group of friends around. Things started off well and they began dating. He went to a different school than her, but they always met up at the mall, the park or somewhere public.

Then things started to slowly change. She had to meet him at specified locations, the mall, the park, his school, or the railroad tracks. He started using and growing drugs and that naïve 17-year-old girl was so desperate to have a boyfriend, to fit in and be normal that she overlooked it.

Soon it turned into having to meet him at night. If she didn't show up or if she said "no" he would scream at her and threaten to come to her house to make her spend time with him. She would cave, and meet with him just to avoid her parents finding out that he wasn't the best guy for her to spend time with. She just wanted to be a normal teenager; she was tired of being teased for not having a boyfriend.

Imagine this guy wanted a sexual relationship, but this girl didn't. She didn't feel ready; she wanted to wait until she found the right person. She knew deep down he wasn't the right one for her, but her desperation kept her there.

Her boyfriend called her and told her to meet him by the railroad tracks down the road from his house. This is where all the druggies hung out and she didn't want to go, but she went anyway, telling her parents she was going to the movies, since they usually didn't let her hang out with friends after dark. She was late to meet him and he was furious. He beat her down and raped her in the snow next to the railroad tracks, leaving her to make her own way back to her car.

He sent her a multitude of text messages later saying he was sorry and that he never meant to hurt her. She ignored his texts and refused to answer his phone calls until one day he saw her at the mall and cornered her. He threatened her, said if she didn't start meeting him when he told her to, he would tell her whole school and her parents that she was a whore, a slut and a liar. He would start any and every rumor he could think of.

She started meeting him every weekend and he raped her every time. She couldn't tell her parents. She didn't get along with her mother and her father was a retired Criminal Investigative Service agent and she knew he would be heartbroken if he ever found out so she kept it to herself. She went to Planned Parenthood to protect herself. Her mother found out and grounded her; she felt like she didn't have anyone to rely on.

This is my story. That naïve 17 year-old-girl was me. A big reason why I joined the military was to get out of my hometown, away from my tormentor and into a family I hoped would take care of me.

I didn't have anyone I felt like I could talk to but then I heard about the Victim Advocate program and immediately wanted to do my part. I waited for three years to be able to go through the training and then an additional five months to get my certification.

The reason I'm telling this story is that I hope survivors of sexual assault will know I really care about them. That I'm not trying to get bullets for an Enlisted Performance Report or to get an award. I'm someone they can talk to, who will believe them, who will be on their side and stand up for them. We all face hardship, but we don't have to face it alone.

All it takes is one person to listen.