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These are the final bits of Sidney Covington's interview by our collaborator Martina Castellanos. In this part 3/3, she'll discuss one of women's most important topics within the Military: Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and how success can be self-made regardless of the circumstances.
SC: I feel, with MST, it is very tricky! Because I think -even in the civilian sector -we haven’t learned how to address sexual trauma in general. We are living in a society where it depends on who committed the crime, and based on that, the punishment is decided.
So it’s really hard to find a cure or solution to MST when the government that is over us does not have a standard either. I think it is very hard, but the army can take the lead and try to figure out how to end it: things like having due process happen effectively, or creating an environment where people speak up sooner.
The thing we also have to focus on is understanding that women make up a huge portion of those who speak up about sexual trauma, but also understanding that the military is predominantly male, and there are also a lot of men who are traumatized.
Something important is getting them to speak up as well, because then we can identify trends and find out how often it actually occurs. Figure out how we can make it to where there is no stigma as to who is being sexually assaulted. That way everyone can receive some sort of justice. And the sooner we can create an environment where people are comfortable speaking, the sooner we can get to a solution.
MC: I remember once I asked a veteran if a lot of people got away with comitting rape, and he responded that the guy in the battlefield will always be chosen if he is better equipped. He does not have to be the most morally righteous. I was in shock.
SC: Yes, I have a couple of male veteran friends who have been sexually assaulted. They still haven’t spoken about it, and they probably never will. Because I feel there is another layer of complexity that's added when it is same sex or gender assault. It's almost like showing weakness -that another male could rape you.
I just feel like we need to try to build a culture where people can speak about their sexual trauma -regardless of gender. It’s really hard to address.
MC: What do more women need to know?
SC: What more women need to know is that the value in their worth does not reside in their ability to have kids, or the ability to have a spouse or significant other.
I was talking to my brother and I was like: "Nicholas, I can’t believe it. I am accomplishing things in my life, but I don’t have a family." And it was interesting because he said he had a girlfriend, "and if I didn’t have a girlfriend I wouldn’t miss it as much as you." It's so crazy to know that women are almost conditioned to believe their value and their worth is within a man.
He was like "Sidney, you have accomplished so much without a partner. Why do you feel you need one so badly now?" And I feel like women need to know that. You don’t need kids to be valued. You don’t need to be in a relationship to feel valued. You being who you are and achieving the goals you want should not be less significant because you're single or without children.
MC: Yes, I agree. For example, my cousin was not able to marry and have children, and my family always asks : "what's her problem?", and I feel like that question resonates deeply with how women are seen in society. It’s almost like women are considered broken without a male counterpart.
But I wanted to know, what is your driving force for today's success?
SC: I think my driving force is that I didn’t have anyone to look up to when I was younger. In the sense that I always had to look outside of my family, and I want to change that. Your family should be what you look up to. I mean, you grow up with them. So I want my nieces and nephews to know there is someone in the family who does great things, and they can do great things too.
MC: Yes, and I also feel like when you start at the bottom, the success is purely yours and the reward is much better. The happiness you feel from knowing that it was 100% your work ethic and dedication is amazing. How was your high school experience?
SC: My high school was interesting. I went to a predominantly white one. Often times, I was the only person of color in the classroom, which is always an interesting experience.
I grew up with my dad, who constantly wanted me to embrace and be proud of being black. Growing up I could count the times I saw a black girl in a magazine. The representation of women of color on TV wasn’t high either. So my mom went out of her way to make sure I knew I was beautiful, and that my culture was rich and beautiful. So going to a predominantly white high school was definitely interesting because I dealt with a lot of microagressions.
In my freshman classroom, I forgot what book we were reading, but the N word was used, and not like the one that is often used by, especially, black people, but the other one with a lot of historical, painful history to it, which makes it actually very painful.
I think I raised my hand to request we did not use the word in class, and before I could even say it, my teacher looked at me and said we were going to read the book the way it was written. And it's one of those really odd things when you're the only person of color, especially the only black person in the classroom, and you're being told that your experience with the word or what that word means to you means absolutely nothing. Like "your experience in the classroom means nothing to me." And I felt like I endured that a lot.
But right now I am much happier because before I didn’t know these were microaggressions, and I didn’t know one could experience trauma from racism. Since at the time I didn’t know what I was experiencing, it made it really hard to make me feel like I was part of a community or part of a school.
MC: How would you deal with these agressions? Would you fight back?
SC: In high school, that's all I did. I reacted. Especially, when your a teenager, it's more difficult for you to control your emotions. So I would always talk back, always get into arguments with teachers. It made it to where they would be like: “Oh, she's a problem student”, but it was never: "what are we doing to make this student feel uncomfortable?"
So I kind of wish there was some sort of self-reflection on the teachers' behalf to ask themselves: "why is this student acting this way?" So I'm hoping for that.
MC: Yes, I understand. When I moved from Miami to Texas, the thing I remembered the most was how students were given detention for speaking Spanish, even during lunch or recess. While in Miami, being bilingual was praised. And it shows how different environments can hinder a student's growth in the classroom.
SC: What? That’s crazy. And imagine what that does to someone's cultural identity, especially if they are a kid. That's why I am so protective of women of color, because we live in a society which tells us we are not valuable or worthy unless we adhere to whiteness.
MC: It' true. Now, to end on a rather happier note, what is something you haven't done yet, but definitely want to do?
SC: I am an adventurous person, and I want to do a lot of things. But something I want to do -that will conquer this recent fear I have developed after getting out of the military- is going bungee jumping. Now I am a lot more fearful than I have ever been in my life, and so I hope that it will activate this fearlessness inside of me!
And even though Sidney feels fearful now, we believe she is one of the most fearless, successful women we have come across at Alana Athletica. We are always proud to come into contact with women who share their stories of resilience to inspire others and become a light in the darkness.