After Combating Sexual Trauma in Silence, Female Veterans Find Help

Sheila Procella joined the Air Force in 1974 to “see the Earth,” she said. She enlisted at the tail end of the Vietnam War, shortly after graduating from high school. Although she never left her home state of Texas during eight years of service, her office job proved to be its own battlefield.“Some of us actually went to war, some of us had war right here in the states, going to work every day knowing we are going to be harassed,” said Procella, now 62 and living in Plano.At the time, fewer than 3 percent of service members were women. Procella recalls the daily barrage of sexual comments, gestures and men grabbing her inappropriately. And one of her superiors made it clear that her hopes of moving up the career ladder depended on having sex with him.“He was kind of discreet about the way he put it, but his one advance and my one acceptance of his advance led to my promotion,” Procella said.At the time, Procella, who served in the Air Force until 1979 and then went on to the Texas Air National Guard until 1982, accepted the common belief that reporting the incidents would be bad for her career. “It definitely wasn’t talked about, you definitely did not report your superiors for any kind of harassment,” she explained. “At the time that it happens you sweep it away like you’re going to be OK.”  Continue reading...

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