Women's Center for Advancement
“I love the Marine Corps. I love everything it stands for."
We'll call her Whitney. She is tough; survived boot camp and wanted to spend her life as a Marine. In an instant, her dreams were shattered.
“He ended up taking advantage of me that night."
The man she says raped her was a fellow Marine. He outranked her.
“I didn't want to say the word rape at that point. It wasn't even fathomable to me that would happen to me."
Whitney reported the assault but felt victimized all over again. The military didn't move her assailant. Like many other military sexual trauma victims, she had to live next to him and work under him. Eventually, they told her to move off base.
Whitney said she had to watch as male military members came into her barracks and threw all of her clothes into garbage bags. She hit rock bottom.
“I was completely alone at that moment," she said. Whitney is far from alone when it comes to victims.
Sharon Robino-West, a former Marine, helps military assault victims at the Women's Center for Advancement. She was also raped in the service.
“It took me 29 years to come forward," she said.
Sharon was a decorated Marine. Like Whitney, she wanted to spend her entire career in the military.
She said, “If I had not been assaulted, I would have finished and I would have done 20 years. And I believe I would have done it well."
Sharon started a program in August at the WCA to help those who have been sexually assaulted in the military. In just seven months, 100 women have come forward.
“We can't keep pretending this is our dirty little secret," she said.
Both Sharon and Whitney say ultimately victims should feel they can come forward and the military will stand behind them, “without that fear of being blacklisted, of not being promoted, of not being able to make a career out of something they wanted to do their entire lives."
They want change.
“We want the predators out. We want the leadership to support us to make sure there is change " said Sharon.
The WCA works in cooperation with the VA. Many of the women they help do not qualify for benefits. In some cases, it is because they have left the military because they were assaulted.
Women are not the only ones assaulted. Men can also be victims.
The VA reports one in five women are sexually assaulted. One in five.
Both Sharon & Whitney say they love and admire the Marine Corps. They both say they are concerned our military keeps losing good leaders because of this.
"The lives that are ruined over this, the women and men that have been strong enough to come forward and report..." said Sharon.
They are both proud of their service.
"It’s supposed to be an honorable thing. Not a thing of shame. Not a thing of fear." said Whitney.
The WCA offers many ways to help veterans, active duty and spouses.
For more information, go to wcaomaha.org