Soldiers' Stories Statement
Former Specialist Brittny Gillespie, 139th Military Police Company, 16th MP Brigade, U.S. Army, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with Volunteers of America Los Angeles Battle Buddy Elizabeth Saucedo and friend Corey;
Los Angeles, CA,
February 2014
48”x 48” Chromogenic Color Print

I served four years in the U.S. Army as a diesel mechanic. I deployed to Iraq from 2009-2010 where I also acted as a military police officer.

The biggest issue that I had was actually right before we deployed to Iraq. I was still new to the unit and didn't know a lot of people, so they invited me out. I thought, “OK, cool.” We went out, had a good time, got back to the barracks, and one of the guys said, “Well, I’ll walk you to your room.” I grew up with all guys. That was normal for me. That’s just what they do. They help you out and make sure you're safe. We have PINs on our doors, keypads to get in. I went in and closed my door and about five or ten minutes later I heard my door open. He had watched me put my PIN in. I was half-asleep already, a little bit drunk. He snuck into my room—my roommate wasn't home. I couldn't fight him off. He was probably about twice my size. I was in the shower for like three hours afterwards. By the time I went to talk to the NCO [non-commissioned officer], the guy was already spreading rumors that it was consensual.

The NCO kind of just looked at me funny, like it was a joke or something. I said, “I want to report a rape.” And he said, “That's not what I've been hearing, and it's not that big of a deal, anyway. We're getting ready to deploy, we’ve got training to do. I don't have time to deal with this. No one would believe you anyway.” It was pretty much a slap in the face.

When I deployed, we were all in one small compound, and I was with this guy for twelve months straight every day. It made it really hard to deal with the men in general. I had really bad panic attacks for a while. When I got home, I had night terrors really bad. I would wake up screaming, flailing around. I dreamt that someone was on top of me holding my throat, and I’d wake up freaking out, sweating and screaming, like I couldn’t breathe. It’s not as bad now, but I'd wake up and my knuckles would be all busted, bruised up. I'd be scratched up from hitting the headboard. Luckily at the time I was doing a lot of fight training, so they thought it was from me training and not from me punching my wall in my sleep.

At night I have my dog, Bella, so she helps. Any little noise or anything, she wakes me up. Honestly, I don't know, between her and my friend Liz, that's the only thing that's kept me from losing my shit altogether. When I got back from Iraq, Liz and I got really close. She was really good to talk to because she had a similar situation happen to her while we were deployed.

I got married when I got home. He knew about what happened. It’s still scary when your wife's in bed next to you flailing around, or she starts crying for some random reason. I didn't think that I was good enough to get married. I didn't feel that it was fair, because I was still edgy, nervous and couldn't be 100 percent trusting. That ended up being a downfall, really, of my marriage.

Brittny is currently studying biology at Citrus College in Glendora, CA. She credits the help of Volunteers of America-Los Angeles, an organization that provides essential services to traumatized veterans. This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in January 2014. This photograph, funded by Getty Images, was used in a media campaign for VOA-LA that was designed by Fraser Communications.

This text was transcribed and edited from interviews conducted by Jennifer Karady in April and May 2011.

© Jennifer Karady 2019, all rights reserved.