Meet a Veteran: Dottie

DottieI joined the Navy so I could go to college and provide a better life for me and my daughter. I was running away from my life with my abusive ex-husband.

The life I was running from followed me into the service. I was a victim of military sexual trauma. I was fondled and raped, and I didn’t report the incidents because I didn’t think anyone would believe me.

After my discharge I felt like a failure. One day I was active duty, and the next day I was on the streets. I was leaving the military with no home, no job, and a five-year-old daughter. I became depressed. I was lost, and didn’t know what I was going to do. I pulled myself together for the sake of my family and tried to forget everything that had happened to me.

Forty years later, I was working as a bus driver – homeless, and sleeping in the back of my bus. It just so happened that along my route was a place called U.S.VETS.

For years I’d look at the guys from U.S.VETS getting on my bus with disdain. I looked at them and I saw the men that had disrespected me during my two years of service. They’d show their military ID and pay their quarter, and I’d think to myself, “I’m a veteran, too, but I’ve worked all my life and raised five kids.” I didn’t understand how they could end up the way they did. I assumed they were just lazy people. But now here I was, having worked hard all my life – still working hard – and I was homeless.

The one day I was talking to a young lady on my bus, who told me she knew someone who worked at U.S.VETS, helping veterans find homes. She gave me the phone number, and before long I had moved in to the ADVANCE program at U.S.VETS – Long Beach and started attending therapy. I had been to therapy before, but had quit because I didn’t want to deal with the truth. Through one-on-one therapy at U.S.VETS, I’ve started opening and healing wounds from decades ago. I have learned how to deal with them.

Having been a mother since I was sixteen, I never had the opportunity to focus on me. I’ve got to work on me now. I’m so much happier since I’ve come to U.S.VETS. I’ve joined a running group, and am taking pride in myself again. I’ve come a long way, and I’m looking forward to where I’m going to be a year from now. I know I’m going to be better.

I’m very grateful that I met the young woman on the bus who gave me the phone number for U.S.VETS. All of the help and support I’ve gotten has been phenomenal. For somebody like me, who has always been the one that could do everything, it was very, very hard to admit I needed help. But the help is there if you’re willing to reach out for it.

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