- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I’m in the Marine Corps, and I’m being sexually harassed by the senior noncommissioned officers in my battalion. I fear immediate retribution if I go public. It happened to another female in our unit, and trust me Ms. Vicki, she has never been heard from again. Which means she has been given a terrible job ever since then.

I’m tired of them making sexual comments around me, telling jokes that always involve sex and asking me questions like “What’s your bra size?” This is totally inappropriate, and I feel like every time I walk in the room I’m being watched. I’m scared, but I want to make this stop. — A Woman in the Corps

Dear Corps,

You should not feel alone and you definitely should not fear reprisal. This is what offenders want you to think, so you won’t come forward. I know one of the victims’ advocates who works for the Marine Corps. Her number is 703/693-3315. She will be able to give you advice, support, legal information, etc.

The Victims Advocate Program is here to assist you from A to Z. Please contact her as soon as you read my letter.

I am sorry for what you have been experiencing. It’s not right, it’s not fair and it’s illegal! I applaud you for serving your country, but you must take this big step and report what has been happening. If you don’t, it will continue to happen to you and other women who are serving in our armed forces.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

Can soldiers divorce their wives while they are deployed? We have been married for five years, and I’ll be the first one to admit we’ve had numerous problems. You name it, we’ve had it. We have both admitted to our mistakes in this relationship, and I have been working hard to grow up and change, so we can have a good marriage. We have one child, a 3-year-old boy.

Now that I have been working hard to be a supportive and good wife, my husband has started writing me e-mails and calling to tell me he wants a divorce. He says he feels like things just aren’t right and something is still missing.

I’m really feeling hurt and confused because I have been trying really hard to learn to trust him again. This is scary to me because I don’t know what I will do if he succeeds at divorcing me. First, I don’t want a divorce, and second, I have no money right now to make it on my own. I only have a high school education.

If he can’t divorce me, that will give me some time to try and convince him to stay married to me. Otherwise, I’m up the creek without a paddle. I would be grateful if you could give me some help. — Waiting To Exhale

Dear Waiting,

From what others have reported, I will say your husband cannot divorce you while he is deployed. However, this is a legal question and you always can contact your legal office on post for an appointment. Many offices have walk-in hours for consultations.

It sounds like your marriage has endured some turmoil you have tried to resolve. I applaud you for trying to take responsibility for your share of problems and for what you have done. Now your husband is deployed, and I’m sure he is experiencing many emotional highs and lows. Sometimes deployed service members can say things they don’t mean and even make impulsive decisions.

While I’m not a lawyer, I know you don’t have to sign any legal divorce papers if they should come, especially without receiving legal advice. This is a good time for you to continue with individual counseling and work on improving your self-esteem and your self-worth.

I’m not implying that you don’t love your husband, but you make it perfectly clear you are not capable of making it on your own. This is not a good predicament to be in. Contact the social work services on base to learn about available counseling services or to get a referral to the proper resources.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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