Val Zavala: Angie Peacock was a healthy, happy high school senior growing up in St. Louis. She decided to follow in her grandparents footsteps and join the U.S. Army.
Val Zavala: Ten years later she described herself as "damaged goods." A vet suffering from PTSD, depression, panic attacks and drug addiction. She was also victim of MST. Military sexual trauma.
Angie Peacock: I don't want to look attractive anymore. So I don’t dress up. I don't wear makeup.
Val Zavala: It was her way of keeping men away. And it began when she was 21 and deployed in South Korea. A fellow serviceman had walked her home.
Angie Peacock: I remember being in his room and he started asking me like “will you have sex with me?” And I was like no. I said no four times. I didn’t think he would still do something.
Val Zavala: Then she says, remembers not being able to move. She had been drugged.
Angie Peacock: Around four days later after I pieced together what happened and asked friends, I went to my platoon sergeant at the time and I sat down closed the door and locked it. And said I was raped. He's like, well, “it's best if you just don’t say anything and we'll keep this conversation between the two of us. That's it just let it go.” And I'm like “okay.” And I'm 21 in a foreign country 5,000 miles from home. Whatever my leaders say I'm supposed to go with.
Val Zavala: Her experience was typical. In the military in 2014 there were more than 5,000 reported cases of sexual assault. Less than 10 percent went to trial. Of those, only 7 percent were convicted. Her next deployment? Baghdad, where the stress intensified.
Angie Peacock: We used to always take this underpass through Baghdad toward the green zone direction. Our convoy was behind a different convoy and that convoy got hit at that underpass. And so our soldiers pulled up right behind it. One of the captains had sinuses blown out. Another soldier lost an arm.
Val Zavala: It was all too much for her. She lost 48 pounds, suffered from panic attacks. They sent her home where she was diagnosed with PTSD and given a medical discharge. At age 25 her military career was over.
Angie Peacock: Seven years of my life that I put everything into and excelled at my job and was a decorated soldier and…the next thing you know I can't even sleep. It totally changes a person. Everything just gets twisted.
Val Zavala: Over the next four years she became addicted to prescription drugs and alcohol, attempted suicide many times, got married and divorced. Her life had fallen apart.
Angie Peacock: I am myself sick with the addiction at this point, I’m not of sound mind to know there is help and it will help you and you'll feel better. No one told me that. You are on your own.
Val Zavala: At the US Veterans Long Beach V.A., Dr. Diane West and Dr. Lori Katz, started a program called "Renew.” It's one of the few programs in the country designed to treat female veterans who suffer from sexual trauma.
Dr. Diane West: We found that women vets couldn't be treated like the men at all. They would cry. They would get depressed. They would get angry. We came to this idea that it all stems from sexual trauma. That's the main core with the women.
Angie Peacock: I do not want to be the only female in the VA in treatment with a bunch of men. I don’t want to be around that military mentality. That is what victimized me in the first place.
Val Zavala: The program has a separate entrance for the women. This is where 12 weeks of intense therapy began.
Angie Peacock: There’s nothing wrong with you...but I’m like you don’t know what my brain is telling me..
Val Zavala: Angie was one of the first Iraq War combat veterans to enter Renew. She documented her thoughts in a video diary. That summer she recorded one of her most difficult days.
Angie Peacock: It's July 4th. Fireworks are starting and I'm taking off. Pretty much like a war in my head right now. Half of me says get over it. The other half says somebody's shooting at you. Don't you hear it? And I’m like no. This is America. What if all the fireworks were bombs? No it’s America and I keep telling myself that over and over. Honestly, July 4th is like Baghdad all over again. It sounds again. It’s a shame that I can’t even enjoy an American holiday.
Val Zavala: One-on-one therapy is also part of the program.
Angie Peacock: There's so much emotion...like all that happened to me. That's not me. It's a movie. It's not really me.
Val Zavala: In the Renew program, art therapy offered women a different way of expressing themselves.
Angie Peacock: OK, I made a gun but it says turning in my gun. And here’s my love bullet. The bullet of love, because I want to turn my negativity into positivity.
Val Zavala: Over three months, the anger lessened. She was calmer, happier.
Angie Peacock: The goal in life is to overcome everything that has happened, including, war, rape, domestic abuse – I’ve had them all. They made me stronger.
Val Zavala: In September 2008 Angie completed the Renew program. She started imagining a new future for herself.
Angie Peacock: I see myself back in my old body, skinny, and healthy. Feeling good. Walking on the beach. Doing yoga. And um…college degree and maybe a boyfriend.
Val Zavala: This story first aired in 2009. Today, Angie is back in her home state of Missouri. She earned an AA degree in psychology. GPA? 4.0. She’s now working on her B.A. and she mentors other vets. In 2002, she was one of four vets honored at a White House dinner. Of enormous help is her service dog who helps her get out of stressful situations. She named him G.I. Joe.
I'm Val Zavala for “SoCal Connected.”
Host Val Zavala brings you the story of Angie Peacock, an Army veteran who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault. Peacock talks about overcoming the various stages of her life while coping with addiction, depression, and a failed marriage.
In this 2009 "SoCal Connected" story, Peacock documents her journey as she enrolls in a specialized 12-week sexual trauma program called Renew at Long Beach Veterans Affairs.
"There's definitely a need for specialized treatment for women. I do not want to be the only female in the VA in a treatment with a bunch of men," explained Peacock. "I don't want to be around that military mentality. That is what victimized me in the first point and brought me to this point."
In 2007, only eight percent of all reported military sexual assaults went to court, and the vast majority of attacks aren't reported at all. Additionally, people are four times likely to develop PTSD following sexual trauma than they are combat trauma, according to psychologist Dr. Lori Katz.
Zavala sat down with psychologists and representatives from Long Beach Veterans Affairs for more information about Renew, as well as the need for more specialized programs for female veterans.
Watch "Wounded: The Battle Back Home," a short documentary on Angie's journey as a Wounded Warrior Project Peer Mentor:
Featuring Interviews With:
- Angie Peacock, Army veteran
- Dr. Diane West, U.S. Vets Long Beach