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Rape and Domestic Violence Under DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell)

By Justin B. Terry-Smith

April 13, 2011

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I was a U.S. Air Force veteran from 1999 to 2003. I love serving my country and serving the people of this country. Even though there are a lot of people that do not support war, I've always thought that the support of the troops that are fighting in the war are what and who's important. But what war are we fighting? And are we actually in it together? The only time I felt that the military was truly united was when the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy" ended.

In the military I had my ups and downs. The ups were I had great friends and I was accepted by a lot of people on base. Even though they knew that I was gay, a lot of my co-workers didn't care. All that many of them cared about was that I did my job. That is all I cared about; all I wanted to do was to serve my country the best way I knew how, until one night that all changed ...

One night in the summer of 2002 I was at the club off Florida Ave in NW DC called the 501 Club, which is no longer open. It was a great night of dancing, and hanging out with friends, but little did I know someone was watching me. I left the club a little earlier because I was way too tired to stay until the club closed. When I got to my car I hear a voice yell out at me, "Justin, hey yo Justin wussup man?" I looked up and it was my friend, Brown Sugar. I should've known he was bad news because Brown Sugar could stand for B.S.

After some idle conversation Sugar suggested that we got to IHOP for a bite to eat. I eventually told him that I would love to eat because I was always hungry after the club. Sugar didn't drive so I had to drive us there. He told me that he needed to get money from his house. I should've known there was something wrong but I was so naive at that time in my life, I didn't pick up on any kind of red flags. On the way to his house which he was directing me to, we had a good conversation; he was the nicest guy. When we got to "his place" I noticed that a lot of the roughhouses were dark and it didn't look inhabited.

Sugar asked, "Justin why don't you get out the car and come upstairs with me?" "I think I will stay in the car." Then I looked at his eyes and I noticed something didn't seem right, something was off about him and the way he looked at me. Instead of the light I once saw in his eyes I saw a shallow darkness. Sugar immediately grabbed the keys out of the car's ignition. "Kiss me" he said. "I don't want to, give me back my keys." He persisted and said, "Come on baby, now you know I've been watching you for years. I've wanted you since I've laid eyes on you." I said, "Listen I just wanted to eat so let's just go and eat and I can drop you home."


All of a sudden I heard a click, and looked down. He had pulled out a six inch knife on me. I was stunned and in shock. He then started to yell, "Now this is the last time I'm going to ask you, give me a kiss or I'm going to stab you." I refused again and he punched me in the face, I was a little dizzy, he began to yell again by this time and held the knife to my neck. "Now pull down your fucking pants." I actually tried to open the driver's side door but he pull me back and began to hit me again and again. He hit me so hard that I blacked out for a bit. He put me on my stomach in the car seat pulled down my pants and proceeded to rape me. I felt empty inside as it was happening, as if I had to numb myself to get away from the hurt I was feeling physically but most of all mentally.

After Sugar was done with me he told me to get out of the car. I refused. The I saw a bright light and the car next to us caught on fire for no reason -- I couldn't explain why it did. He yelled louder for me to get out. I knew in my head if I got out of the car he would steal it and then I would be stranded in Southeast DC. The part of Southeast that I was in was the ghetto and I would be alone. He still had the keys and got out the car; he raced over to my side of the car and attempted to open the car door.

When he put the key in the car door I knew that was my chance to escape. I pushed the door open so hard and fast it hit his leg and he lost his balance and fell to the ground. I got out of the car and wrestled him for the keys; he bit me on my hand and I kicked him in the balls. He fell to the ground and I ran. I screamed and yelled for help but at that hour in that part of DC nobody seemed like they wanted to help. I saw some houses with lights on about a block away, so I ran to the occupied houses seeking help. I knocked and knocked on the door asking, yelling for help. Then I heard very loud footsteps coming my way, they were running, Then I heard Sugar yell, "Get him he is right there." I then stopped knocking on the houses and ran up the street.

As I looked back I could see someone running after me with a knife. I was lucky to be quicker and smaller than he was. Sugar's accomplice was a little overweight and he couldn't keep up with me. I out ran him and ran and ran and ran. I ran for a long time across a community baseball field to a metro stop. There was a bus starting its early morning route. I stopped him and told the bus driver what had happened to me. He took me to the nearest police station.

When I got there I felt like I was being interrogated even when I was the victim. After hours of questioning they said they had found a car like the one that caught on fire and my car that was sitting right next to the burnt car was still intact. They took me to my car to identify it and then took me to Howard University Hospital to see a Rape Nurse. I was cotton swabbed everywhere. They tested me for everything, including HIV. After the whole ordeal I had finally driven myself home to Dover Air Force Base.

While I was in the Air Force I started dating a Marine named Anderson. We met in a very cute way. I was working at the Military Post Office and Anderson came in to send a package to Germany. I sat there and flirted with him and then he asked me out. I was so happy because a lot of my friends on base thought that Anderson was so handsome and hot. Anderson was 5'10", clean cut, muscular, almond doe-eyed milk chocolate skinned man. He was so hot just about all the females on base wanted him and of course a lot of us brothers too.

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Justin's HIV Journal

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin B. Terry-Smith, M.P.H., may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own website, and he's even on YouTube. He is a noted HIV and gay civil rights activist and the creator of "Justin's HIV Journal," a popular blog in which he shares his trials and tribulations of living with HIV. A U.S. Air Force veteran, Justin resides in Laurel, Maryland, with his husband, Dr. Philip Terry-Smith, and their son, Lundyn. Presently, Justin is working toward earning his doctorate in public health. He welcomes your questions.
(Photo credit: Don Harris)

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