A sailor, a survivor and a victim's advocate
By Hugh Lessig | Daily Press | Published: July 27, 2014
Petty Officer 1st Class Bonnie McCammond remembers the 2009 housewarming party as a night of celebration and plenty of drinking.
The hosts provided plenty of space for the guests to crash. No one intended to drive home. But when Bonnie woke up early the next morning, another sailor was on top of her and she was being assaulted.
Before leaving the next day, the sailor said he had a great time and asked for her number.
McCammond didn't say anything right away, and it took a long time before she could share her story publicly. But this year, McCammond became the first featured subject in a new Navy video series titled "Broken Links."
In it, she talks about what needs to happen for the Navy to move forward in the war on sexual assault.
A cryptologic technician based in Fort Meade, Md., McCammond said the unprecedented spike in reported military sexual assaults -- 50 percent from 2012 to 2013 -- is a good sign. It doesn't mean assaults are increasing, but that more people are coming forward. She believes the military culture is shifting, but more work remains.
Sailors must realize that sexual assault normally doesn't involve an evil stalker hiding in the bushes. It could be the person next to you.
"We want a very clear cut bad guy," she said. "But sometimes we're friends with these people. That's hard for everybody involved. It's never easy to look somebody in the eye, especially if it's someone you thought you could trust, and say, 'Wow, you did something beyond reprehensible.' "
Going forward, she wants to see more resources given to the fight.
"The military on mental health is underfunded, understaffed," she said. More attention should focus on long-term care, not just treatment and counseling over the short term. Advocates who work at the ground level also need better equipment.
Male sexual assault victims also need help. After McCammond first told her story, she said three male victims came forward. The 2011 repeal of the policy that forbid gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military -- known as Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- was a step forward, she said.
"I think having Don't Ask, Don't Tell repealed is going to help because it's going to make it a safe forum for anyone who is not a heterosexual," she said. "They don't have that held over their heads anymore."
Because more people are recognizing the threat, she predicted the number of reported sexual assaults will rise, more males will come forward and conviction rates will increase.
"We're making a lot of noise, and a lot of noise in ways that hasn't happened before," she said. "We're tired of things being the same way."