COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo - A man who says he was sexually assaulted in the military is sharing his story publicly for the first time.
He did not wish to share his name, face or the branch of the military in which he served, but said that sharing his story would begin the healing process for him and his family.
'Scott' told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that for several years in his military, he was sexually harassed then eventually assaulted. Each time he reported the incidents to his superiors, he says he was mocked and ignored.
"I would not sleep very well and I started drinking," Scott said. "It was no longer social drinking."
The effects reached his family life, too. He struggled to connect with his wife and children. He credits his family's unconditional love for keeping him alive today.
He says each time he told someone in the military, it was in vain.
"Every one of them denied it," he said. "The senior enlisting officer said, 'It's just a game. Men do not have this problem. Men are the stronger sex.'"
Michelle Shaunaman, the outreach coordinator for TESSA, told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that it can be difficult to get men to report domestic violence and sexual assault because there's a stigma.
"Men in our culture are supposed to be strong, masculine leaders. There's this idea that they can't be victims of domestic violence of sexual assault," Shaunaman said. "One of the first challenges that we have to get through in working with males is that this does happen to males and you're not the only one this has happened to."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said this month that the reports of sexual assaults in the military has increased 50 percent. He said it is less a sign that more assaults are happening and more a sign that victims are less fearful of retaliation or shame if they report being assaulted.
Scott doesn't believe the numbers are even close to the number of cases.
"My voice was never heard," he said. "I hope my voice will encourage other voices to be heard. I want other people to come forth and tell the military enough is enough."
TESSA works with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. All interactions are completely confidential. To learn more, click here.