Chelsea Snoey wanted to be part of something bigger than herself – to serve her country. The shy teenager joined the Navy right out of high school, eager to make a difference and see the world. A world that would quickly reveal its ugly side.
“He was someone who was supposed to have my back and they didn’t,” Snoey said.
Snoey was assaulted at her first duty station by someone she worked with and whom she trusted. When she tried to come forward, she was met with resistance and indifference.
“Oh, you just have adjustment disorder with a depressed mood. I’m everything, really? I’m having trouble adjusting? Well, no wonder, I just got mugged by a co-worker, another service member who worked with me,” she said.
In short, Snoey says they didn’t believe her and instead of giving her the resources and support she needed, they were moved here to another ward. His attacker was never held responsible.
Snoey was heartbroken, but she continued her military career never feeling the same. She suffered from PTSD because of this experience and always found herself looking over her shoulder and uncertain in her relationships.
“This entity to whom I have given my life, to whom I am ready to dedicate everything, has let me down,” she said. “They didn’t take care of me like they were supposed to.”
It wasn’t until Snoey got out of the Navy and checked in with VA that she realized how broken she truly was. She has been working with the VA Salt Lake City Military Sexual Trauma program for two years in an attempt to get her life back. And she succeeds.
“It gave me a sense of control in my life,” she said.
VA psychologist Amber Martinson says Snoey’s experience is not uncommon in the military. She adds that many never report it for fear of retaliation.
“Although it’s difficult, it’s scary and people have had so many negative experiences so far, there is hope and there is plenty of opportunity for growth and healing if they reach out. hand,” Martinson said.
Today, Snoey is no longer the broken shell of a person she once was. He will always be there, she says, but she is happy again. She also encourages other victims to “do the work” and get their lives back.
“Talking about it can give you space to live a life worth living again or have that love and safety around you again,” she said.
If you or someone you love has experienced military sexual trauma, call the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System at 801-582-1565 and ask about the Military Sexual Trauma Program or visit www.MentalHealth.va.gov/SAAMwhere you will find useful resources and materials that you can explore and share with others.