W. Wash. woman shares story of military rape
PORTLAND, Ore. - Sexual assault in the military has become a topic of a national conversation just in the past couple weeks as top lawmakers in Washington, D.C. push new bills to crack down on it.
And a San Antonio newspaper's seven-month-long investigation shows victims are struggling to get help.
Myah Bilton-Smith of Vancouver, Wash. said she was raped twice on a Texas Air Force base. She was featured in the newspaper's story and reached out to KATU News to share her story.
For her, the pain is still fresh. Her interview with KATU News came more than a year after the sexual assaults began and just weeks after the Air Force honorably discharged her.
She has some brain damage from her attacks, which affects her speech.
"Sometimes I find myself getting really aggressive, getting mad at the people I really shouldn't be made at, crying, hysterically," she said during her interview with KATU News.
Those are the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. But the 21-year-old has never been to war.
"I sometimes get afraid. I don't know when it comes to higher ups, the chain of command," she said.
Instead, she's fighting a battle with her military brethren.
"The last thing I want to do is cry in front of the world, but at the same time, it's like, sometimes you gotta cry."
Myah's tears started last April. She says she was raped at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. She was stationed there to become an intelligence analyst.
She doesn't remember much about the attack because she says she was drugged.
"I was freaking out because of the embalming fluid cigarette," she said.
It's a date-rape drug that has similar effects of PCP.
Myah says commanding officers didn't send her to a regular hospital. Her records show she ended up somewhere else.
"They put me in a psych ward and then they said, 'OK, we're going to put you back on and expect you to ride through.'"
Three months passed and Myah got put back with her unit. But an allergic reaction she suffered to medication doctors gave her weakened her motor skills.
"It hurt because I was denied my promotion because I couldn't do it at the time," she said.
Myah's salary was also reduced.
Three days later she says she was attacked again. She says reporting the problem made it worse.
"I just yelled at them. You know, I shouldn't have yelled but I said, 'I got raped.' You know, and I started crying."
By this time Myah's mother, Tina Cleman, had already quit her job in the Northwest and moved to Texas to help.
"No parent should have to move to make sure that their child is alive or remains alive," she said.
Cleman discovered that Myah's first rape had never been reported. She took photographs with her cellphone more than a week later. One shows a gash in Myah's head and another shows bruises on her body.
"If my daughter would have been given the rights that that is supposed to - the purpose that it was put there, she would have a military career," Cleman said.
Military policy states that Myah was eligible to apply for an expedited transfer to another base. She did that after each attack. Ironically, that law was put in place the same month Myah enlisted - December 2011.
She was denied both times.
She said death could have been the end result for her.
Myah credits not only her mom but an organization called the Military Rape Crisis Center for saving her life.
KATU was unable to reach a base or Pentagon spokesperson by deadline about Myah's case.
However, a similar story about Myah in the San Francisco Chronicle quotes a Goodfellow Air Force Base spokesman as saying they can't comment on the case because of privacy issues.
Earlier this month the Pentagon released a report estimating that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted just last year. But thousands of victims are unwilling to come forward because of fear of retaliation.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is pushing for a system in which sex assaults are reported outside the chain of command, directly to a military prosecutor