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    Her story: Fort Lee Soldier's tale of sexual assault, harassment a reminder to be vigilent

    Her story: Soldier's tale of sexual assault, harassment a reminder to stay vigilant

    Photo By Terrance Bell | Staff Sgt. Virginia Greer speaks to the crowd at the Jumping for SHARP event April 20...... read more read more

    FORT LEE, Va. (April 27, 2017) -- There was a time when Staff Sgt. Virginia Greer was not the adventurous, sensible and self-assured version of the Soldier she is today – the one who was recently selected for Warrant Officer Candidate School and promotion to sergeant first class.

    By her own admission, she was a creature of compliancy with a high-degree of meekness to boot.

    “I do think if I was more of an outgoing or stronger person at that time, I might not have suffered all the consequences along the way …,” said the nine-year Soldier assigned to Company C, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion.

    “The consequences” she refers to are sexual crimes perpetrated against her on two separate occasions earlier in her career. Greer today is a stronger and more resilient sum total than the shattered pieces she was left to gather several years ago.

    Strong enough, in fact, to not only accept her experiences but to bring light to a subject that has long festered in the shadows.

    “I think it is important that if my story could help just one other person, then it would make all the difference,” said the Soldier whose place of duty is the Quartermaster School’s Aerial Delivery and Field Services Department. “I would like people to know that it pays to stand up for yourself, no matter what (rank) the person is wearing. It’s something I learned along the way to help me get to where I am now, but I didn’t know it then.”

    Greer is a walking, talking statement of strength, transformed by the experience. It was evidenced by her mere appearance before roughly 150 mostly advanced individual training Soldiers and others who had gathered to hear her testimony at Fort Pickett’s Blackstone Army Airfield during the Jumping for SHARP event April 20.

    The 32-year-old had never told her story publicly, although several of her peers were familiar with it. At the event, she faced a sea of students sitting in a grandstand. When the rigger was introduced to the crowd, she confidently and smartly walked to the lectern and began her introductory remarks. A few seconds later, feeling a bit uncomfortable, Greer abandoned the wooden support and decisively pulled up a chair just a few feet away from listeners as if preparing for a fireside chat.

    With a slightly trembling but confident voice, the Arizona native relayed to a captive audience an unadulterated story of survival that resulted in a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and possibly a lifetime of healing.

    Merely telling her story was validation she had liberated herself from victimhood. Furthermore, she seemed insulated against what people thought of her plight, which is partly due to a successful recovery program and favorable sentiment about the Army’s ongoing efforts to reduce sexual crimes.

    “Because everything is taken so seriously now, those who look at me in a negative fashion do not belong in today’s Army,” she said after her presentation. “Their values don’t line up with the Army Values. I know my peers would not pass any kind of judgement on me for my story.”

    Greer’s story starts in 2008 when she was a passive person who “was so afraid of authority … so much of a follower” she feared to question or challenge – even in the face of blatant misconduct. Those attributes, she said, attracted the attention of a noncommissioned officer who eventually exposed himself to her following a pattern of misconduct.

    At the time of the incident, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program, responsible for reducing sexual crimes in today’s Army, was not yet in effect. Its predecessor – the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Program – was not as comprehensive and the training was not as widely dispersed.

    “All we knew (at the time of the first incident) was to ‘go see your platoon sergeant,’” said Greer, noting the first NCO in the chain of command was the “go-to person” for all issues at that time.

    Her platoon sergeant, however, was the perpetrator.

    Greer later reported the incident to leadership, but the NCO continued to perform his duties, she said, and was never held responsible for his misconduct. If she thought of herself as too passive, she now carried the baggage of suspicion and doubt.

    “I developed a very severe distrust of the system and how they handled such situations,” said Greer.

    In a second incident roughly 18 months later at a different installation, Greer went on a date with a law enforcement Soldier. “I really liked him,” she said.

    They went on a second date to his house – no drinking; no reason to distrust the NCO.

    He wound up sexually assaulting her.

    “There was zero percent chance he thought it was consensual,” said Greer, noting she did not resist because he outweighed her by more than 100 pounds and she feared for her life.

    Crushed by the betrayal and traumatized by it all, Greer managed to drive herself back to the barracks and called a former victim advocate because her unit lacked one at the time. Hours later, she was treated and processed for the assault at a hospital where the collection of evidence – roughly 50 hairs from her scalp, photos and invasive procedures – was the near equivalent to the assault itself.

    “The whole thing is very embarrassing, very traumatizing,” said Greer, noting it occurred roughly two hours after the assault so her “brain was still jacked up.”

    On top of the collection procedures, Greer said she was advised by authorities that using the “unrestricted reporting” procedure would force prosecution, but “we don’t have a lot of evidence. It’s going to end up being ‘he said, she said,’ and they’re going to argue it was slightly rough, consensual sex.”

    Additionally, there was this bombshell of an assertion – “‘You know you spent the night over there,’” said Greer, relaying what authorities told her, adding she was far from being “mugged in an alleyway.”

    Greer was not surprised from hearing the counsel, considering what she endured after the first incident.

    “The system didn’t work for me before,” she said. “Why would it work now? I’m an E-4; he’s an E-6; he’s an MP – a trusted member of the military community – on a more advanced scale than some little private.”

    Greer, having filed a restricted report, fell into a deep state of despair and stopped performing her duties. No one seemed to care, she said. She gradually returned to a semblance of her former self through the integration of social activity.

    Deploying to Afghanistan later that year, Greer said by the midway point of her tour she began having what she terms “night terrors” – severe nightmares that bring to life sights and sounds with terrifying realism. They also became frequent, and she could not account for certain time periods. It appeared she had fixed her issues superficially but had done nothing to treat the trauma.

    “I was losing chunks of consciousness, not to the point of passing out, but I would be at work rigging and not remember how I got to work,” she recalled. “I just walked around in a daze. I was numb all over again.”

    Greer was having such a struggle with reality, she began to separate herself from it, she said.

    “I didn’t have a plan for suicide, but I no longer cared if I died,” she said.

    An NCO in her company, Sgt. 1st Class Rorie Short, knew Greer to be a “high performer” and noticed her sudden apathetic behavior.

    “She had taken a nosedive,” he said by telephone, noting she had approached her NCOIC about her problem but “was turned away.” Greer confided in Short, and he initiated a meeting with the chaplain that led to behavioral therapy.

    “When she came back out,” said Short, “she was back on her game. Her mental well-being had a serious effect on her performance, and opening that door and taking care of her problem put her right back on track.”

    Greer completed her tour and began to travel the tracks to recovery. She underwent eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy for PTSD while still downrange and had follow-up therapy following redeployment. She has seen a marked improvement in her condition since then.

    “It’s been years since I’ve talked to anyone professionally about this, but I’m doing very well today with it,” she said.

    Short thinks Greer is well enough to think there is an element of advocacy living within her; something that will help those with similar encounters to regain a part of themselves.

    “I think she’s going to take her experience and put it directly into her leadership ability,” said Short. “She’s basically got an inside story of what happens to people when they go through this type of thing. I definitely think it’s going to be a positive aspect of her leadership.”

    Now married to an Airman, Greer is more than happy to live a normal life. She said marriage has given her a strong foundation. Her husband has been very supportive, and they enjoy a “healthy romantic relationship.” Despite all that is going well, Greer said the job of restoring herself will remain a part of her life.

    “I don’t think I will ever be 100 percent,” she said. “It’s always there. It never goes away.”

    Remarkably, Greer also said she has come to grips with her reality, and – this may offend some – she is better for it.

    “Don’t get me wrong,” Greer said. “I will never wish this on anyone, but it did happen, and I have learned from it, especially about who I am as a person.

    “I can promise you I will never be that person somebody takes advantage of and will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else,” she continued. “I can’t say I was the same person when I joined the Army.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.27.2017
    Date Posted: 04.27.2017 16:31
    Story ID: 231820
    Location: US

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