JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On November 10th Marines all over the world recognize the birthday of the corps. The Marine Corps was founded in 1775. But as one local Marine celebrates the anniversary, she also hopes her story will serve as a wakeup call for all military members.
Vanessa Tave is one of the few, but proud female Marines in the U.S. When she joined in 1991 she says only about 100,000 women were Marines. Today 7.6 of Marines are women. It’s the most physically demanding branch of the military with the smallest percentage of women.
“Every Marine remembers going through boot camp,” Tave said. “We are the elitist of the elite.”
Tave served for nearly a decade in the 90s. When she turned just 18-years-old she was deployed to Okinawa, but not without a warning.
“I was told to be aware of that before I went overseas,” Tave said. “I was told because we are women in the Marine Corps we will be targeted by certain individuals.”
She said she was told to beware of sexual predators overseas.
“I didn’t go to college because I thought that’s what happens in college, girls get raped in college."
She never expected to become a victim while serving her country.
“Unfortunately, yes, I was sexually assaulted in the military."
It was her first day in Japan. Per protocol the first 24 hours are spent in isolation so she reported straight to her barracks.
“He came into my room while I was sleeping," said Tave.
She woke up to a man in uniform on top of her.
“The person that assaulted me was an MP, a military police officer.”
She later told her roommate what happened.
“I said, 'I need to report this' and she said to me 'I hate to be the one to tell you this but if you do that they will make things very difficult for you.'”
Blackmail. So, she kept quiet.
“It’s sad that I feel fortunate because I have friends who were gang raped.”
The U.S. military received a record number of sexual assault reports in 2016. Despite recent scandals leading to even more scrutiny, she remains proud to be a Marine.
“We knew it wasn't about the Marine Corps," Tave said. "We didn’t want to put it on the Marine Corps. I blame those individuals who abused their position of authority to take advantage of women.”
Now, she is happily married and a strong example for her kids.
She is now making her claim for disability. In the last two years she says the military is finally recognizing that they are suffering from PTSD as a result of military sexual assault.
© 2017 WTLV-TV