On January 24, 2017, we first brought you the heartwrenching story of Lisa Spencer, a US Navy Veteran who was stationed in New Orleans, Louisiana, for boot camp and after, for seaman apprenticeship classes, when just three weeks in, she was sexually abused in 1998.
Rape is becoming increasingly prevalent among women who serve — three years ago, the Military Times reported an “extensive survey of 170,000 troops revealed that 20,000 service members said they had experienced at least one incident of unwanted sexual contact in the past year, representing nearly 5 percent of all active-duty women and 1 percent of active-duty men.”
Recent statistics show at least 25% of women serving in the U.S. military have been sexually assaulted, and up to 80% have been sexually harassed
“Every sexual assault in the military is a failure to protect the men and women who have entrusted us with their lives. We will not rest until we eliminate this crime from our ranks,” Navy Rear Adm. Ann. M. Burkhard, the director of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office has said.
The implications of sexual abuse are incomprehensible, often triggering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the experience of MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Once leaving the military, the inability to hold down a job and a home, becoming a frightening reality, and the rise of homeless vets is a testament to this. [Women comprise the fastest-growing segment of the homeless Veteran population. In its 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimated that just over 40,000 veterans were homeless on a single night in January of that year. Of those, about 9 percent were women, out of a population of more than 2 million female Veterans. From 2016 to 2017, the number of homeless female Vets increased by 7 percent, compared with 1 percent for their male counterparts.]
Lisa’s ordeal pushed her to the brink: she turned to drugs (cocaine) and alcohol, both of which she was abusing daily. She also attempted to take her own life.
Her rock bottom resulted in a 45-day stint in a psych ward of the VA.
She recounts hitting the lowest of the low: “My turning point, I believe, was that I had a mental breakdown. One night I was getting high and I started talking to the curtains. and then I remember talking to my cousin and crying severely. She kept trying to get me to lay my head down and go to sleep. This is how I ended up in the psych ward of the VA. At this point, I knew I had to deal with these issues. I became very dedicated to dealing with them and I am still dealing with them today.”
Lisa has now been sober for some seven years and has turned her life around (she credits largely to attending Dr. Gilda Carle’s Country Cures® Empowerment Training for SHEroes, an educational non-profit charity. Dr. Gilda is the media’s Go-To Relationship & Life Style Expert. Her unique female-centric training uses Country Music and Female Language that touch the hearts of our SHEroes. “Guitar strings to heartstrings” is her motto.)
Her life transformation has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and she has now bought her own home, a far cry from the days when she lived at a church for a few months that took homeless people in.
“I bought my first house in November,” Lisa, now 53, says proudly.
She adds: “I have been doing I am looking to going back to school for social work and have become an ordained minister.”
Her message for others who have all but given up?
“My message to others is: I know when things look it’s darkest it is so easy to give up but don’t. We are all fighters and survivors, so when life throws punches at you, put on your boxing gloves get in the ring and fight. Let life know you are not giving up,” she says.
To get a more in-depth look at what Lisa has overcome, click HERE.
*Ed’s note: Lisa’s resilience and her ability to overcome such adversity leave me bursting with pride.