The Rape of a Female Cadet at West Point: Me.

The first females graduated in 1980- I arrived in 1983.
The first females graduated in 1980- I arrived in 1983.

After reading this FOX article about the military’s push to bring rape numbers down, I felt the need to tell the story about a rape of a solider I personally know:  that solider is me.

The stats on rape in the military are MUCH worse than reported. How do I know? Because both I and my roommate were raped at West Point- and we never reported it. The man who raped me, Wil Riggins, is now a Colonel in the Army. The rape is the reason I left West Point. So, while his military career is soaring, I left mine far behind. I never told a soul there- not even the psychologists I was forced to see before I left.  All I wanted to do was get as far away from that place as I could.  I would move hell and high water to do it.  I just wanted to breeze through those interviews and be done with it all.  Even though it was possible for me to be forced into 5 years of military service as a private, I didn’t care.  I just needed to go.   So, I lied.   I must have broken some kind of speed record for out-processing from West Point- it took a mere 3 days.  I didn’t save a single memento- not my uniforms, not my insignia, not my hat, not anything.  I literally packed my few clothes and bolted.   (I regret this now.)  I was at the end of my third year- had my ring and my car.  West Point also required me to give back my class ring as I was no longer worthy of it.    I had no where to go (my disappointed mother told me not to come home if I quit) and I didn’t care.  There were so many incidents there that were unbearable (example:  I belonged to a company called B-1, “Boys One”, that took pride in running out all its women.  We women were forced to scream, “Go Boys One!”  Boys One still exists there) – but that rape was the last straw for me.   West Point was hell for women.

I thank God that for some reason, the Army didn’t need or want me to fulfill those 5 years.  Perhaps they sensed that there was more to the story than I told.  No one leaves after three years.  It doesn’t make sense.  The hard part is over by then- only senior year, with full privileges remained.   In addition, after two years of a free education, all cadets sign a contract that says they will serve in the military for 5 years- as a private or as an officer.  So, if you quit, you end up serving as a private instead of a lieutenant- without a college degree.  Not really a logical choice, right?  That’s why my instantaneous decision to leave triggered the whole interview process with those psychologists.  They were kind and asked me if I had been raped.  But to go through some lengthy investigation (that would attract the scorn of the entire corps) when I was absolutely at the most fragile emotional state of my life wasn’t an option to me.  I needed to be gone.

I have thought about officially reporting this colonel- but I haven’t yet done so. I called West Point (several years ago) and found out that hundreds of women cadets are now reporting rapes that happened while I was there- almost 25 years later. I spoke to the female colonel there who encouraged me to officially file. I’m not sure why I didn’t and why I don’t. It just feels like old news- left far behind.

But I DID find him on social media.  In fact, I had forgotten him until I saw his smug face on Twitter and Facebook!  Now that made me mad.  That’s how I found out that he was now a colonel- ahhh… do you all remember the first rush we had when FB came online and allowed us to instantly connect with our old high school & college buddies?  Well, it also opened a few Pandora’s boxes, didn’t it?  Well, his wife shared that account. After I confronted him publicly  about the rape on both sites, all social media sites with that jerk quickly disappeared. Which I found very satisfying. I have no doubt he had some explaining to do with his wife, whom he was dating at the time of the rape. I wonder if they are still married?  I feel sorry for her.

As indicated in the article, alcohol does play a major role in these rapes- I was out cold from stupidly drinking myself unconscious at Eisenhower Hall (the one place they let cadets let off steam with dancing and free beer- yes, FREE beer). Women- ESPECIALLY military women- do NOT over-drink with your buddies. I promise you, in the stunted sexual environment of the military, one of your so-called friends will take advantage. And you will be left shocked.  Especially because you only find out that you had been raped by certain ‘evidence’ that remains when you wake up.  Which means that the rapist also failed to use a condom.

My roommate was violently raped in her bed- and she did not report it. When I was at West Point, if you got raped, it actually was your fault. There was NO way to report it except to your direct company commander- of whom you were completely terrified. The culture at West point, and I’m sure the entire military, is that you do not rat on other soldiers. If it is not a matter of ‘honor’ (ie, lying, cheating, stealing) then you keep your mouth shut. I didn’t even know that this type of rape was illegal- a crime. Why? Because no one told me!  Also, the male soldiers called all us women bitches & sluts any way. So to report that you were that drunk and that you were raped while unconscious is to tell the world that you are a drunkard and a slut. Male cruelty at that point can drive many a woman to suicide. My roommate understood this pressure as well. Her attacker also went scott free.

Sometimes I wonder about women in the military. Gays too.  Now, ladies, don’t get me the wrong way.  I was an awesome soldier.  I was the best shot with the M-16 in my entire company (about 100 guys) and was one of the last to be killed in our simulated war training.  Women have the skills, alright.  My question is about mixing the sexes in that type of environment.

It is hard enough for our soldiers to fight a war and maintain discipline under duress.  Special, over the top training is absolutely necessary when ordering men into live battle.  Questioning orders or cowardliness won’t do at all.  Adding sexuality at the workplace just doesn’t seem like a good idea for hundreds of young, testosterone pumped men who are trained to exert force day in and day out.  “Sensitivity training” and “Go Rip Your Enemy A New A-hole Training” don’t really go hand in hand, do they?   There is a MACHO in the military that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else- and it is necessary.   But is also a completely stunted environment for sexual maturity- both for men and women. Women are surrounded by a hundred lustful men who will do anything to get their attention- it can quite go to your head!  And it can lead to a severe lack of wisdom and caution.  It can even lead to what we used to call, “The Queen Bee Syndrome” where the few women who are there actually learn to compete with one another for all this male attention.  As I said, it is a completely unique environment.

Women can’t really be getting a great experience out of the whole thing either. While I still retain a couple of friendships from West Point, I have seen that most women leave the academies and service rather alone while the men make lifetime buddies. The military just seems geared to men. They like it. They make friends & lifelong loyalties there.  It seems to be the epitome of male accomplishment.  But West Point was a lonely place for me. I truly wonder what most women, if they were being completely honest, would say on the matter now.  Personally, I can tell you with 100% confidence that I would never recommend the military as a career choice for a woman.   I have discouraged several young, bright eyed women throughout the years from making that choice.  So, maybe there is some redemption in that.

46 comments

  1. Dear Susan: If you prevail in the lawsuit, don’t you get awarded your legal fee’s back? I am almost sure that you can even win the case and possibly get it dismissed during Summary Judgement phase.

    Kindest best regards,

    Al

    One of your supporters
    and Veteran

    • Hello, Alvaro, actually, because this is in VA, I’m not sure that is available to me. Unfortunately. The laws need to change. I wish I could talk more about my case but until it is over, I can’t. Someday, I hope to be able to talk more about the whole experience- especially to help other women when they get into the same position as me. There are definitely do’s and don’ts for women to know when you get into this situation in order to properly protect yourself legally. The law can be treacherous- as can the entire process. Without the proper foreknowledge, a woman can lose her rights without even realizing it. I hope that I can help women someday with all that. But thank you for your concern. Your prayers would be so helpful. With God, everything is possible. With God, I need nothing else.

    • I was a supporter, not a detractor. You would not have recognized my last name since it has changed since plebe year. I wanted to contact you in private to catch up. I still have the card you gave me when I jumped from the helicopter. Take care. I realize you are on the defensive. It is only natural with the law suit. Good luck to you.

      • No problem, Mary, as I said, my comment wasn’t for you, it was for the others who leave names like, ‘onetoknowone’ or ‘pantsonfire’, etc. I didn’t even see your comments, yet. I’m pretty sure who you are as there can only be one Mary from plebe year!! lol. read my other comment to you! Susan

    • Hi Mary, Yes! Oh, I don’t think I leveled any comments at you, did I? That comment was for other individuals, not you. I believe I know who you are and I would love to talk to you. Is this your email address? If so, let me know. I will write to you directly. Or, the next time you write to me, just give me an email or phone or however you want to talk and I will use it. I won’t publish that comment. I view every comment before I publish it. Thanks, Mary. Talk to you soon- can’t wait! Susan

  2. Ha! Has everyone ever noted that my detractors never leave their real names or email addresses? That is because they are COWARDS of the first degree. Craven cowards. Make note of that, my friends. Make note that I leave my photo and name for all to see. I do not fear the light, nor the opinion of men. This is because I speak the truth and the truth will sustain the evaluation of the day. Only those who fear evaluation will scurry away into the night so that their deeds remain hidden. Hey, who said that??? hmmmm…..

  3. I just saw a segment on the news tonight about your story. I just want you to know that I find it sickening that this man is trying to sue you. Why would you randomly come out of the blue with this accusation? What would it serve you? You needed justice. This article is so very true about the military culture. I was also in the Army but as enlisted. You are right that the whole instution is geared toward men. I have to say that before my ets they did get a little bit stricter about sexual comments and what not. However, it still happened. I hope that guy gets what he deserves.

    • Thanks so much, Angie. Yes, as if the rape weren’t enough, right? As if getting away with it weren’t enough, right? I never got to see the interview as I am on the West Coast- it only aired on the East Coast. I am losing everything because of this law suit: my home, my retirement savings, everything. He is hoping that I run out of money before this lawsuit gets to court. But I am doing everything I can to dig up enough money to keep on fighting him. If I can hang on until I make it to court, I will win because all the facts are on my side. He has told so many lies between his current account and that which he gave to the Army in the official investigation that he will get hammered in court. But this suit is already forcing us to mortgage our home. My husband already has taken a second job. I am about to take a job and leave my kids alone at home. But I am determined that this rapist will not win. Not this time. I’ve had enough of this. He will not win- no more, I say. No more. This time, a rapist has messed with the wrong woman. I will stand for ALL WOMEN this time.

  4. Powerful story. What if all of the bright men and women who get appointments to West Point redirected their amazing skills to peacekeeping?

    In 2014 Brad Pitt starred in the war film, Fury, called by some “war porn” in which the German Tiger tank and Sherman tank soldiers are totally unaware that the tank track invented by Benjamin Holt in Stockton, California, for farming had been converted to weapon platforms and that Holt’s company would receive through international patents royalties by the warring sides. In this environment there is only one question: “Would you rather be a hammer or a nail?”

    Where every tool is a hammer or nail sanity is absent and life is reduced to….well, you know.

    When the film Fury premiered at Washington D.C.’s new cathedral to journalism, the Newseum, with General’s Colin Powell and Casey in attendance, no one mentioned that Pitt’s dramatization of the execution of a German soldier was a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions or that the soldier who was being forced to participate in the action had every right as you did at West Point to protest…..hell…..to turn the gun on Pitt’s character!

    Was this what Col. Theodore Westhusing protested to General David Petraeus whose biographer was not only Paula Broadwell, but the Washington Post’s Vernon Loeb whose handling of the blatant journalistic fraud of the Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch stories led him like your attacker, now a colonel, finds himself as the managing editor of the Houston Chronicle? I have made it a point of asking every history teacher I meet “who is General Smedley Darlington Butler?” I am never disappointed. They’ve never heard of him. Most don’t know of Henry Van Ness Boynton, either. And so it goes. I apologize for what happened to you at West Point. Will things change without your facing, confronting your oppressor? Jesus said that if someone strikes your cheek, turn to them the other. That means that you must squarely face them eyeball to eyeball. This may not significantly change human nature, but it might change one person’s and in a war of ideas….changing only one may be all we can hope for.

    • William, hmmm, I’ve read over your question concerning Col. Theodore Westhusing several times now and every time am left befuddled! I’m sorry! Please shorten that sentence and clarify! I am truly interested in what you are trying to say here. Please rewrite and help me to understand your point. I’m not sure how this relates to my situation. An interesting take on Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek, however.

      I want you to know that I go very reluctantly to trial. He has forced it upon me- to his detriment, I’m sure. While he could have walked away with an honorable (ha) discharge on a full colonel’s pension, his quest for my blood will cost him everything. I am forced to now prove, in a court of law, that he raped me. I’m not sure why he would risk this with his life and his family but satan blinds people. Revenge never works out for anyone- even the villains in the cartoons.

      • Well, I had heard. But of course, his lawyer lied to me. Is he still working? Is he in the Army at all? Or has he left entirely? By the way, are you the one who wrote to me awhile back and wanted to help me out? I am looking for that person. Susan

  5. I am so proud of you, sister, for all of your accomplishments st West Point. I too, was raped when I was twenty years old, and have tried to “heal,” but it changed me. I still have “anger issues,” but I feel they are totally justified, although people may try to make me feel guilty for showing this strong emoton. Isn’t it something that WE as women are forced to leave school, jobs, etc due to what some asshole, despicable man has done to us? We could stay, but the emotional problems (aftermath) of the rape do not allow us to. Too painful and enraging. It literally drove me mad. And yet we live in a rape culture. Talk about psychological warfare. Sex is everywhere we look-on billboards, tv, films, and places that I would rather not see it. Rape jokes, rape in mainstream films, in music, tv is everywhere. Seems to me like “they” are trying quite hard to normalize this atrocity. This evil bs is a major factor to femicide. It breaks us down psychologically. That’s what men ultimately want. They do not blink an eye at the fact that these rapists and obvious contributers of trying to”keep us women in our places” kills. They know this. If they cared about us ( daughters, mothers, aunts, “friends,” etc) this simply would not be happening. Rape is an epidemic in this country and all over the world. I feel for you and your roommate. I admire you for following your dreams until some hard-on comes along and does what he feels he is entitled to-rape. Rape is not sex, it is a nasty form of violence, control, and hatred. I am a pseudo separatist due to my life’s experiences with the opposite sex. My take on male “friends!?” Why bother. They’ll never see us as their equals, and will be working slowly (or quickly) on getting in our pants. I know from experience, and no one can take that away from me. Guys, please don’t comment on my truths. This is how I feel, and I am not looking to debate it, and I don’t have the energy to defend vicious put-downs. We all have the right to free speech, right? Right??!!

    • Hi Jennie, I’m sorry that I never replied to you!! Although this is impossibly late, allow me to do so now. I want to say one thing to you- there is no ‘They’ out there. You can’t lump all men into one, nasty group because of the actions of a few horrible men. There are wonderful, loyal, loving, self sacrificing and honorable men who would jump on a grenade to save a woman’s life. I know many such men. Please don’t allow one man’s action to steal your humanity. Or your love of men. This is to allow him to have total victory over you. I mean this in the most sincere way. One of the worst outcomes of abuse is to REACT and to live in permanent reaction toward your abuser and abuse. For example, if a child is terribly abused, they can grow up to negatively REACT in two ways: 1) they refuse to ever discipline their children out of terrible fear of abusing them -or- 2) they beat and abuse their children because that is what they learned. BOTH are child abuse and both lead to a terrible outcome for their kids. And both are prisons for the adult who was abused as a kid. The only victory for that kid who was abused is to FORGIVE his parent and then, learn how to be a good parent through other means- books, other role models, classes, etc. And then, the kid-turned-adult must put into practice what they have learned and fight against the ‘natural’ urges of fear/anger that might emerge as result of their abuse.

      Your abuse is no different. You are now living in permanent REACTION to it. A woman can either continue allowing a man to beat her or she can completely cut all men out of her life- either one is a horrible NEGATIVE RESULT of being abused. Either way, YOU LOSE. You DESERVE a beautiful, loving relationship with a man, Jennie. You can’t let your rapist steal this away from your life. Your VICTORY comes as a result of your forgiveness toward him. Does that mean you will ever condone his actions or feel gently toward him? no, probably not. But I know that I feel no malice toward my rapist. In fact, I wish he would find Christ and be saved. For his own good. Also, for mine. If he repented, he would apologize. Then, it would all be over. He would drop the suit, hopefully pay back the money he has forced my husband and I to pray for this frivolous lawsuit and call it done. I don’t think he will repent- but I hope for it. Short of that, I don’t feel anything toward him- and this has set me free. Heck, I feel more anger and disgust toward his lawyer! lol. I feel his lawyer is more to blame for this suit than HE is. It is HIS counsel that is making this suit continue. Especially since Riggins will lose ultimately. But Riggins is believing this lawyer who will get his money one way or the other. But there is a sucker born every day. Riggins was never the sharpest tool in the shed if my memory serves me. YOU need to let this rapist go. And then, you need to put men in perspective and understand that MOST men desire to make women happy- they are far from violent- they DESIRE the love and softness of women and desire to return it. PLEASE reconsider your feelings. Jennie, from one woman to another, I beg you to consider Christ as your Salvation. In HIM are all your answers. Go to HIM and you will find the peace and joy that pass all human understanding. I can witness to this fact as I am living it today. Bless you, Jennie. Write to me and tell me how you are doing… Susan

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