By: Tonya Jackson
Timothy Jones, a University of West Florida student and the owner of a training and professional development company, was once a victim, but he is now a victor. Jones has a message of redemption to share that involves military sexual trauma (MST). The Veterans Administration describes MST as “experiences of sexual assault or repeated threatening sexual harassment that a Veteran experienced during his or her military service.” The VA also states that 40% of the Veterans seen at their facilities who disclose MST are men.
Jones shares, “In 1999 I was stalked, raped, hazed, and then I walked in after my friend had committed suicide the night before. That was literally within six months of being at my duty station. As I started receiving treatment for everything the counselor didn’t address the hazing or the rape. My commanding officer told me that if my name came up in regard to homosexual activity for the third time I would be kicked out, regardless of the reason. I was kicked out and I received an honorable discharge. I come from a military family, my grandfather was a Marine, my aunt was in the Air Force, my uncle was retired Army.
At the age of seven I had the experience of caring for an older man, Mr. Jordan, who told me his war stories and talked to me about John Wayne. I loved hearing his stories. I was honored to take care of a real hero. I never experienced any prejudice and was never treated with anything but kindness by this man and his family.
With my family history it was a given that I would join the military, but his pride and love for our country it was a no brainer that I would join the Navy. He gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself.
When I lost my job I thought I had let my family down. I thought I’d be a 20-year sailor. Being discharged was the breakdown of my masculinity roles, my psyche, the trust I had in the system. For the next 10 years I did everything and anything I could to disassociate myself from being an upstanding citizen, from a sailor, and from a military guy.
I wanted to hurt myself because I couldn’t feel anything. The drinking and the drugs were the only way I could get some kind of peace without thinking about what had happened to me and to not think about the shame I was putting myself through. I didn’t want to be and do what I was doing, but I had no self-control. When I tried to stop it I couldn’t deal with the nightmares. I couldn’t deal with the images and the words. People say words don’t hurt, but words hurt. Those physiological scars endure.”
After ten years of torturing himself through drugs, alcohol, and homelessness, Timothy turned to God and was arrested the next day. He sees his arrest an opportunity to turn his life around and sees his mug shot as a confirmation of the man he had to leave behind. Today, taking tragedy and turning it into triumph allows him to help other men who have walked a walk similar to his and bring awareness to the issue of MST. He is a champion for Veterans and their particular issues of homelessness and MST.
Today Jones is happy and living a life that was created from those ashes of pain and betrayal. He is currently writing a book about his experiences, to be released in February 2017, and touring the country to let everyone know that rape and sexual abuse happens to men and it is not the end of the story. If you want to know more about Timothy you can find him on Facebook.