When a victim becomes a victor

This Navy Veteran stands on his story of military sexual assault


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Seaman Timothy Jones was out at a club in Iwakuni, Japan, when he received an eerie phone call. “I’m watching you,” the voice said. This is a phone call he had gotten several times before.

Jones was spooked, so he returned to his barracks and fell asleep. When he awoke, there was a 6-foot-5-inch Marine on top of him. Scared and unsure how to defend himself, Jones went along with what was happening.

Timothy Jones was stalked and raped by a fellow Servicemember.

“I can still see him. I can still smell the cologne. I can still feel the sheer terror of that night,” said Jones.

The following day, he was encouraged by a friend to report what happened. He was hesitant. It was 1999, and “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in full effect. He was worried about his career and the implications that reporting would have on it.

Timothy Jones advocating for survivors

Timothy Jones advocating for survivors

But Jones found the courage to report. The man that assaulted him was eventually identified, and charged, with sexually assaulting Jones and four other Marines. The assailant’s penalty was six months in the brig and a dishonorable discharge.

Jones knows he did the right thing when he reported the crime committed against him, but he suffered a year of hazing and harassment from others around him. His peers would ridicule him and claim he must have been asking for it if it happened. When he was promoted, some refused to address him by his new rank. He went through counseling, avoided his peers and finally discharged from the Navy.

After leaving the service, Jones began using drugs, abused alcohol and became homeless.

“I was told to go to the VA, but I didn’t trust that system,” said Jones.

Jones survived three suicide attempts during his 10-year stretch of personal despair. His road to recovery finally started when he was jailed for a felony charge.

While in jail, Jones was introduced to a VA representative. VA sends specialists into the justice system to provide direct outreach, assessment and case management for Veterans in local courts and jails where they serve as a liaison with local justice system partners. Jones’ meeting was set for 45 minutes, but he opened up to his outreach worker for nearly four hours. He told her his story explaining everything he had been through. That’s when Jones was first told that he may be dealing with PTSD.

For the first time since his incident, he trusted someone.

When he was released from jail, Jones’ family decided to no longer support him in the effort to empower his own recovery. Left homeless, he enrolled in a Grant and Per Diem Program sponsored by the VA. The program gave him two years to get back on his feet.

“The VA does their part. I have to do mine. They give me the tools. I apply it.”

Jones then turned to the VA for mental health treatment. He has been receiving treatment at the Joint Ambulatory Care Clinic in Pensacola since 2011. For the first six months, he avoided talking about what happened to him. His doctor just let him talk about what he was comfortable with. That’s when the Navy Veteran began to realize the VA was enabling him to take control of his own recovery. “The VA does their part. I have to do mine. They give me the tools. I apply it.”

Jones now uses his story as a way to reach other Veterans and survivors. Even though he says he still has nightmares, “Going to the VA now, I have a feeling of hope,” said Jones. “I have a sense of healing. I feel there’s an actionable step I have to take.”

It took Timothy Jones over a decade to get back his life, but with personal motivation, assistance from VA and a strong support system, he stood on his story and made it a platform for his recovery.

Author

Timothy Lawson

Timothy Lawson has been a member of VA’s Digital Media Engagement team since April 2016 and is the host of VA’s official podcast, Borne the Battle. He graduated from American University’s School of Communications in 2016 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tim is a Marine Corps Veteran having served as a Marine Security Guard posted at embassies in Algeria, Russia, and Peru.

Comments

  1. Jesyce    

    I applaud for your bravery and your willingness to help others on your journey. Take care and God Bless.

  2. Lynn Marie Robertson    

    I have tried to leave a comment but the robot code says there’s an error. I lefts long comment regarding my own experience and all I get it’s more frustration just trying to post this. I’m jinxed!

  3. Stephen Dana    

    I was beaten in boot camp and sexually threaten by three drill instructors in the Marine Corp, who locked me in a locker and them made smoke a whole pack of cigarettes and they beet on the locker if I need not keep smoke coming out of the. They did more than once and beating came more often till they broke me and I started crying this happen to me forty nine years ago. I am unable to fly or be in small rooms with out freaking out. I have flash back dreams off and on of what happened I have try to kill myself off and on to rid myself of these dreams. I have been scarce to tell anyone because they would give me a bad time about it. But the last time in VA in the mental ward, I told the doctor and he said it like I a MST problem and need to get help. So far I have not been able to get help with this problem.

  4. Wanda Lee Anderson    

    I do not have transportation to get to a VA Center to start my MST compensation? Can I get it mail to me on emailed to me?

  5. Rebekah Wohlgemuth    

    Timothy has an awesome testimony. Never, Never Give up! The VA has a great system set up to help; I appreciate so much my healthcare services. Just know YOU can recover; ….Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find; knock and the door willl be opened unto you”, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7. Even after 50 years, Al, I believe there is someone who can help you open the conversation where you begin to gain insights. I believe that God can help you heal…and with other “healer-types” around you! God bless you real good!

  6. Robert E Edmunds    

    I was 6 years old when my Dads 1/2 bother molested me and I never told my Dad or Mom because he was the Uncle that did no wrong. Went to church on wed,sun,moring and night.We lived in one state they lived in other we would about once a month for about 6 years and I never told any one. Untill after my mom& dad died I am now 61years old. My present wife knows about but not a lot of detail but she knows 0ne maybe two of my three sisters knows but that’s about all and now yall.

  7. DRP    

    Thanks for removing my comment…. So much for honesty.

  8. Katherine Van Gorder    

    I was assaulted during my first year of my enlistment. I reported it to my Captain and was told that I should just forget it. I lived through it and should get on with my life. I said it wasn’t right, I wanted my assailant to be charged. That’s when they told me to go ahead and report it to his Commanding Officer, and expect to have my career in the Marine Corps tarnished and stunted. I didn’t believe that, so I reported it to the CO and was told to go home and stay in the kitchen where women belonged. The CO was not going to ruin a well trained ranking and experienced sailor’s military records because I didn’t have enough sense to stay home. None of that ever made it into my service record. They all swept it under the rug. Now, 50 years later, still dealing with low self esteem and self worth, I am struggling through mental health treatments to get beyond all of that just so I can accept myself as I am, still not sure whether anybody believes my claim of sexual assault.

  9. Jack Kirk    

    Recovery begins when you CAN begin to open up about your assault. Until that time you are in survival mode. The pain is endured; often medicated with drugs and alcohol. The undeserved shame and inappropriate guilt haunt you until someone is able to provide an emotionally secure environment where you are able to reveal. Then and only then can one begin to recover and heal.

  10. Grace Baber    

    How is it that a serial rapist only gets a six month sentence?! Is this person labeled a sex offender in the civilian population? Is there any tracking of this monster?

  11. Ron Bouchard    

    All I wish to say is how absolutely proud I am of you for your perseverance.
    Your path to recovery is your willingness to openly report as you have.
    Your courage will set you free.
    God Bless you. Thank you for your service.
    Sincerely, Ron Bouchard, Research Biologist, Denver Colorado.

  12. David H Deckert    

    When he was promoted, some refused to address him by his new rank

    If that was me, those personnel would have been taken right up the chain of command, especially if I happened to be an NCO.

  13. Werner Alfons Rodriguez Dorrscheidt    

    As I read Tim’s story I cried. I’m not alone after all. Finally someone speaks out. I related to Tim since something similar happened to me. I know all about the hazing and harassment, the drug and alcohol abuse, the nightmares and the felling of helplessness. Thirty-five years later I am actively receiving psychological treatment at the VA and am grateful that someone cares enough to help me. Thank you for your service to all the Veteran Administration doctors employees and volunteers. Keep up the good work. We need you!

  14. India Bridgette    

    I admire him revealing his story. I myself have not been able to be as open in my process.

    1. Wade Craig    

      It’s ok India, when you are ready you will open up about it.

    2. NBell    

      India, coming forward and commenting to Seaman Jones’ situation is a big step in the right direction.

  15. Al Atlansky    

    How do you recover if you have not had therapy over fifty years after the events?

    1. Grace Baber    

      Just by asking this question, you have taken the first step which is always the hardest. For me, I decided to forgive (not condone)and release the negative emotion. It took a lot of struggle within (aka jihad) to get to this point but it is possible. It REALLY is possible to compartmentalize it into a chapter of one’s life and let it go.

      Best wishes on your journey.

    2. Dan    

      I was molested by a civilian 50yrs ago and have had to suffer through a divorce, alcohol abuse, and distrust of everyone. It never goes away. The VA has a program I’ll be entering to help me resolve all my issues.

Comments are closed.