“Just One of the Guys” by Ashley Schlemmer

Military Sexual Trauma is intolerably high in our military today. As estimated 17% of all women in the U.S. Armed Forces have been an MST victim. This is betrayal at the core level and causes a brand of PTSD all its own. Sailor Ashley Schlemmer has been brave enough to tell her story in an effort to connect with others and encourage them to get the help they need to come back stronger from PTSD.

Most people think of PTSD as something that happens to people who have seen combat, who watched friend die, but that’s not always the case. As the only female in the Power Plants shop, I had to act like ‘one of the guys.’ After having to act that way so long I forgot that I wasn’t.

I had been dealing with a lot of personal issues and been feeling extremely depressed. One of the guys that were on the ship with me, who I had met in Bahrain while waiting to fly out to the ship, offered to talk to me. I walked around the ship with him, not thinking much of it; just pouring my heart out to someone I thought I could trust. What happened next was a cruel reminder that even though I was ‘one of the guys,’ I was still a female. He sexually assaulted me in one of the male heads. A friend on the ship made me tell my LPO, then security, and SAVI.

They sent me to counseling, gave me shore duty, then an honorable discharge, but things were never the same. I became jumpy, rebellious and defensive in relationships, snapping at family and friends, and not trusting anyone. This resulted in a divorce from my high school sweetheart, and a trend of bad relationships after.

I finally went to the local VA hospital, where I got diagnosed with PTSD due to the assault. Knowing that was half the battle. Though I’m still fighting to deal with day to day life, I know it’s taxing on my family and friends. It’s hard for them to understand the change in my personality and how to deal with it. Reading the blogs on here gave me hope that I can beat this and live a semblance of a normal life.

ADAN Ashley A. Schlemmer was stationed with HS-5 attached to CVN 69 USS Dwight D. Eisenhower from 2009-2010, then with FRC Norfolk in 2010.