Laura describes her four years in the military as the hardest of her life, due to the constant sexual harassment that never abated.
“I would try not to sleep in the barracks. If I did need to rest, I would leave my boots on and have a knife with me.”
41-year-old Laura served in the U.S. Navy from 1997-2001, as the only woman among nearly 250 men in her division.
From the moment she stepped into her role as a nuclear mechanic, she endured sexual harassment from her supervisor and other male officers.
The harassment would continue for the duration of her four years in the military.
“My flight home from Norfolk, VA to Los Angeles, my hometown, was such a relief. I had finished my four-year enlistment, and I wanted to put those years behind me."
"Instead of feeling proud to have served my country, I threw away all my uniforms, pictures, and any reminders that those 4 years ever existed. The few pictures that remained today are those that I sent to my mom while I was still in the Navy.”
After her term ended, Laura tried to access counseling at the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) center, but was unable to take full advantage of services due to conflicting work and school schedules.
Then, one day, everything changed.
"I found out I was pregnant. On that day I found myself out of a relationship, out of an apartment, and pregnant."
Living “paycheck to paycheck,” Laura managed to stay with friends and family until her daughter was born. Five days later, she was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression.
Thanks to the support of family and her willingness to get better, Laura sought out psychiatric treatment through the VA facilities.
Laura was referred to DWC's Veterans Program that helps women find housing and supportive services.
“Martha D. [Veteran Program Manager] greeted me at the waiting area at DWC. I was so moved that I began to cry. I excused myself and told her that they were tears of joy.”
“As soon as I met my case worker I knew that I did not have to put on my fighting face to be heard. She listened to my story and my current situation and assured me that they would do their best to help us.”
Above left: Laura told her story to over 500 people at DWC's 2014 Dinner With a Cause.
Above right: Laura and her case manager Martha D. share a proud moment after Laura's speech.
A Note About The DWC Veterans' Program: The DWC Veterans’ Program was born of an under-recognized need for services for homeless female veterans, through which we provide federally funded housing vouchers, along with Critical Time Intervention case management and a host of other support services for women moving into their new homes. Veterans are referred to DWC by the VA or through word of mouth.
Through the help of DWC, Laura has full-time child care for her daughter and moved into her own apartment.
“The DWC staff and residents have become a second family to us. It’s a place where I can voice my frustrations and celebrate my triumphs."
And at the beginning of 2015, Laura found full-time employment.
Photo by: Sandy Banks/Los Angeles Times
Donate now to support the dozens of veteran women like Laura who have come to DWC after hearing about our groundbreaking Veterans’ Program, which launched October 2013.
Housing vouchers, like the one Laura received, have dramatically reduced homelessness among veterans, and the President’s 2016 budget proposal seeks to restore an additional 67,000 housing vouchers lost in budget cuts. Reach out to your US Senator or Representative to let them know you support the President’s proposal to restore housing vouchers and help bring the most vulnerable in our community home.