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
Why do I wear teal? When I ask myself this question, my eyes start to swell with tears, my heart begins to race, and my chest gets tight; all while my mind takes me back to my childhood.
As a child, I was exposed to sexual abuse. I became angry as I grew older and started spending less time at home. At the age of 16, I moved in with my boyfriend and his family in hopes my feelings toward the individual who abused me would diminish. Sadly, my unresolved anger developed into anxiety, which only worsened every time I was alone with a male figure.
After high school, I attended junior college. I was excited and overwhelmed at the same time. Most of all, I was ready for a fresh start.
The first couple of months were difficult. I had a lot of school work and the only time I left my room, aside from going to class, was to attend dance practice. In an effort to help me "loosen up," one of my newly found college friends from the dance team invited me to my first fraternity party. It was exactly what you would picture a typical frat party to be. For me, the experience re-ignited my feelings of anxiety and the urge to escape.
I finished my first year of junior college and decided it was not for me. A couple of weeks later, I made my commitment to the Air Force.
Fast-forward to year seven in the Air Force. I learned about a program that supported victims of sexual assault; the Victim Advocate Program. At first, I was apprehensive about joining. Despite my past, I still wanted to be involved. I became engaged by leading Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down days as an in-unit briefer.
While deployed in 2012, I decided I was ready and received training to become a qualified victim advocate. What an eye opener. I was unaware of how often sexual assault occurred and I was naïve in thinking men could not be victims. My deployment and victim advocacy role proved otherwise.
I have been a victim advocate for three years now. I believe sexual assault still happens more often than people think as many are still afraid to report. I want them to know they are not alone.
You are not alone. You have a choice and you do not have to remain silent if you do not want to. We are here for you.
I am grateful I made the decision to serve as a victim advocate. I think my experience and remembering how I felt during my childhood gives me insight on how victims might be feeling.
Being a victim advocate gives me a sense of hope knowing I can offer the support a victim may need in such a traumatic time in their life.
That is why I wear teal.