AUSTIN — A San Marcos woman is speaking out after she was sexually assaulted in the military in hopes of raising awareness about the issue.
When Regina Vasquez was 19-years-old, she followed in her father’s footsteps to become a Marine. Shortly after she joined, she says her dream of serving was torn apart by her peers in uniform.
“I was drugged and brutally raped by two Marines and later on threatened to be killed if I ever reported it,” said Vasquez.
Vasquez continued to serve, even deploying overseas, keeping her sexual assault a secret out of fear. Eleven years later, she broke her silence.
“I finally came out and spoke about what happened and confronted my demons,” said Vasquez.
Her story is now featured in a new documentary alongside other women who were sexually assaulted in the military. It’s called "The Invisible War" and shows the struggles women face finding justice and peace of mind after a sexual assault.
According to the Department of Defense, more than 19,000 service members were victims of sexual assault in 2010.
Vasquez started a non-profit to help sexual assault survivors through art called Fatigues Clothesline. She hopes the creative therapy will help heal past hurts.
An organization called Grace After Fire helps female veterans find the resources they need, whether they are suffering from a sexual assault, post traumatic stress disorder, or simply trying to acclimate to civilian life.
“What we are finding is that a lot of veterans aren't aware of the resources that are available to them, so if they are a victim of sexual trauma or PTSD, they have a hard time advocating for themselves,” said Christine Eberle, the Bexar County outreach coordinator for the organization.
The Department of Defense is addressing the issue of sexual assaults in the military. Last year, the DoD started an anonymous hotline for service members who need help -- 877-995-5247.
In September, the military also revised its rules. Now service members who report a sexual assault can quickly transfer from their unit to protect themselves from retaliation.