One of Us: Sex, Violence, Injustice. Resilience, Love, Hope
One of Us demolishes societal assumptions about rape, sex, virtue, honor, and even friendship. Tragic, yet beautiful, and vital for todays conversations about sexual assault.
With this autobiographical narrative of the military judicial system experience as a civilian victim of sexual assault, Sandi Giver has vividly brought to light the challenges of seeking legal justice when all odds are against the victim. Giver takes the reader from the night of the assault in Uganda as a Peace Corps Volunteer to a Norfolk, Virginia, courtroom recounting intimate details to help protect others from a sexual predator. At a time where Peace Corps was under scrutiny for not supporting victims of sexual assault and the military for not keeping alleged perpetrators accountable, this case was the perfect storm.
Journalism, Current Affairs, Memoir, Crime
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“This isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong… Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say ‘enough is enough.’ This has got to stop now.”
First Lady Michelle Obama,
Thursday, October 13, 2016.
There are points in life when people with whom we interact want to silence us, when they excuse or minimize an abuser’s actions, when they use their power or authority to intimidate us. We will be resilient and we will persist.
This sentiment is definitely true for those of us who have directly or indirectly been impacted by sexual violence. Since the writing of One of Us, the nightly news still highlights individuals who have chosen to be sexual predators — beloved TV actors, star college athletes, high-level politicians. We were once told that an allegation of sexual assault would ruin a man’s career. Reality has shown us is that in some cases, there are few, if any, consequences for the alleged perpetrators.
I sat in awe and dismay when I heard the conversations inside the Access Hollywood bus. “Locker room talk” they called vulgar speech of then-reality TV star, now President of the United States. The man who chose to rape me had a similar mentality of these men who believed they could do anything they wanted — including violating the bodily integrity of others for their own sexual gratification. This is morally wrong and, more importantly, illegal.
I was not prepared to watch people defend the actions of a sexual predator. My soul cried for all of us who are living data points in a dataset of others who have been impacted by sexual violence.
As the conversation about sexual assault during the 2016 election cycle was lifted to a national level, I struggled to focus on grad school as my anxiety increased due to the constant reminders of my own assault.
In 2012, I fought back tears reading the comments following an Associated Press article released in over 220 news sources covering my case. I sought legal justice in hopes that my attacker would be held accountable for his actions—so that his hands would no longer be able to traumatize other women. The press pitted the Peace Corps against the U.S. military since I was a volunteer serving in-country and he was an American Navy sailor supporting Navy SEALs in Uganda. I was not prepared for the malicious comments made by strangers drawing their own conclusions after reading a one-page article that could never depict that night or the year and a half that it took to get to trial.
One of the commenters said the newspaper articles from the first day of trial did not provide enough information to make a conclusion. Another said that because the newspapers revealed the alleged perpetrator’s name the alleged victim’s name should also have to be published.
As the victim, I intimately knew the details of that night. As the victim, I am not ashamed of my behavior so I will gladly provide my name:
My name is Sandi Giver, author of One of Us. I started writing after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) took my statement. I started because I knew I would have to recount every detail in my testimony, and continued writing as a way to release my tormented thoughts and my internal challenges. After having several conversations trying to understand sexual assault and learning about the multitude of misconceptions, I felt the need to share my story— not only to help others find comfort in the fact that they are not alone in their struggles but to also bring about awareness and positive change.
Most of One of Us was written within days of the actual events. Dialogue is quoted as it was spoken, and as it stood out in my mind days after the events. This story is as accurate as possible. I struggled typing the words, but by doing so fortified my resilience for standing for truth and justice. And I found accepting individuals who supported me along the way in the Peace Corps, the military, with fellow survivors, and in the few friends and family members with whom I shared that portion of my treacherous journey.
As a society, we are on a journey. We have a long way to go, yet we are at an exciting point in time where we are collectively using our voice to stand up against sexual violence.
We are becoming stronger, bolder, and more vulnerable with each other. I am amazed at our strength and resilience as survivors and I am thankful for our supportive friends. The journey is rarely without difficulty but nevertheless, together, we persist.
We all have a role in respecting the bodily integrity of others. This issue is too pertinent to ignore and we must do what we can to support and to hold each other accountable.
At the end of the day, we are resilient. We are good. We choose to love. We have hope for a better today and tomorrow because together, we’ve got this.
Enough is enough and we will not be silenced. We will stand for truth and justice for we stand together knowing we are not alone. We stand for all of us.
One of Us is a data driven narrative that survivors and supporters must read... and then share with a friend.
- Come On, Let’s Go Already! Ladies night with an unfortunate, and illegal, twist.
- Walk of Shame, Walk of Shame Friends first dismissive reactions to the “rough” night.
- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Life continues without skipping a beat.
- It Hasn’t Been Quite 72 Hours Takes a medical professional to call the “incident” what it truly is- rape.
- Taking Care of Business The type of business just happens to be blood work, shots, and physical health.
- Lunging for Throats Reporting to the official police or to an accentuated drama show?
- He Is Such an Asshole Sometimes figuring out how wrong something is takes a cursing therapist.
- Life as an Episode of NCIS If only providing a statement to Special Agents would take less than 60 minutes.
- If Anyone Should Be Pissed, It Should Be Me When friends get irritated that you inconvenienced their lives.
- Everything Is Not OK Sometimes a good sob is just what the doctor ordered.
- Not a Newbie Stories from women around the world of injustice and trauma.
- The Journey Ahead Picking up the shattered pieces to start creating a mosaic.
- You Should Have Told Me Explicit details of how the assault went down.
- Acquitted, Not Guilty If the verdicts from other cases are any indication, legal justice doesn’t look promising.
- Long Distance Relationships Lawyers on one side of the ocean, victim on the other.
- I Know What You Are Going Through Good intentions yet awful outcome.
- Stand, Stand By Me The role of others in regards to warnings and safety.
- Serving to the Best of Our Ability Not all who choose to serve our country choose to do so with dignity.
- Dancing With the Defense Complicated legal relationship with someone that was never meant to be.
- To Infinity and Beyond! Trial prep has never been so erroneous.
- When You Choose to Prosecute a Rapist… be ready to defend your every being.
- A Game of Telephone A newspaper article in the states and an inquisitive conversation in Uganda.
- The New Article 120, U.C.M.J. Words and definitions only mean something if people are aware of them.
- Can’t Say the Word Loving fathers and unspeakable things.
- “Thanks!” But No Thanks- No desire to talk to yet another person thrown into the mix.
- To (My Dear Friend Sandi) Trust abused in all corners of the world.
- Living by Principle Complicated mess of emails, phone calls, and managing life.
- Struggling With Justice Defining justice in a multitude of ways with a former “wife” of rebel leader, Joseph Kony.
- Preparing for Lift Off Prepare all you want. Back up plans B, C, and D required.
- I Have a Secret Life as a statistic due to others choosing their own gratification over another’s well-being.
- A Mother of Sorts Peace Camp full of loving others, tears, and solidarity.
- A Sad Ugandan Ending If one trial in the states wasn’t enough, add one in Uganda.
- Taking a Bite(r) Out of Crime The human bite mark can be seen next to the 4th grade bite mark on the right forearm.
- Confidential? Think Again. Personal emails for all!
- A Breathtaking Encounter With Gwen One assault, two assaults, three assaults tops.
- A Year in the Making A reflection while flying over an ocean on the last never expected 52 weeks.
- And the Plot Thickens… When one woman speaks up, others may follow.
- Pillow Talk Late night email prep of diagrams and an expert witness.
- What NOT to Wear Who knew there were so many rules to follow when deciding an outfit?
- Headache and a Twitching Left Eye Plan F.
- Resolution Can’t control the trial but gotta start moving forward in life anyhow.
- Everything Will Work Out The unknowns and another back and forth.
- The 3 “C”s Case. Counseling. Coitus.
- Anxiously Awaiting Time to suit up and go to trial.
- A Peace Corps Trial Begins Inside the mind of a victim of crime while testifying in trial.
- The Public Speaks AP article spreading rape culture in over 220 media outlets.
- That’s It? Verdicts are rather anticlimactic.
- Simply a Human Rights Violation Breaking apart the legal process when it breaks individuals apart.
- Something to Be Proud Of This is not an isolated incident but rather a systemic public health problem.
- One of Us Playing our part in ending sexual violence.
- Epilogue Life after the 2016 election.