Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see the world? Nichole Bowen did when she decided to go into the Army.
“It was just college money fun, I get to do obstacle courses,” Bowen recalled.
At 21 she was in it for the adventure.
“I was so young I didn’t really think about the consequences or that I would be going to war at all,” she said.
But after 9-11 she did go to war, one of the first women to cross into Iraq with a combat unit.
“I remember crossing the Iraqi border and seeing the American flag and I thought, ‘Good, we’re gonna be ok,’” said Bowen.
Little did she know the real enemy wasn’t the Iraqi soldiers - it was her own.
“Looking back, it’s strange how normal I thought it was to have people proposition me or offer me money for sex or say, ‘Let’s go have sex in a bunker randomly,’” she said.
It was a daily battle.
“The entire tour of duty was a constant rape threat for me.”
It wasn’t long before her sergeant made good on that threat.
“I was working on the night shift, so I was alone. He took his clothes off and told me to take my clothes off and pinned me down,” Bowen said.
After the attack, she looked for help from her friends - friends who told her to keep quiet.
“They avoided me because, I don’t know, maybe they thought I was making it up or they were afraid I would make something up.”
Eventually Bowen was discharged, leaving the Army behind but not the memories. Her life now is a constant battle with depression and PTSD.
“Some days just wishing I could just continue sleeping and not wake up,” she said.
Making matters worse was the military red tape. Bowen has been waiting two years for the VA to process her claim. A victim of the Army, a victim of the system, but now she’s also an advocate for those still afraid to speak out.
“There’s a whole lot of people suffering with this experience who feel alone and you’re not alone,” said Bowen.
With the military now under a Congressional microscope, Bowen knows she is not the only victim.
“It’s a culture of harassment and a culture where harassment is tolerated and even almost expected,” said Bowen.
The sergeant who raped Nichole eventually returned to his base in Georgia where we’re told he was promoted.