After years of silence about the incident, Col. Pamela Lincoln voluntarily shared her sexual assault experience with the hope that it might empower other survivors to come forward for the emotional, medical and legal support they need. (Air Force)
In the somber video, Col. Pamela Lincoln recalls one night 25 years earlier that changed everything.
A young Lincoln barely registered the jogger behind her as she walked home after a late night at work — until he grabbed her, forced her to the ground and choked her into unconsciousness.
In the four-minute video, the Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., colonel recounts the minutes and months that followed the sexual assault. She talks about panic attacks and sleepless nights, about blaming herself and finally getting help.
Her message — that it’s OK to reach out — is the first in a new video series featuring sexual assault survivors on the Air Force Sexual Prevention and Response Program blog .
That blog is part of a larger campaign to crack down on the crime in the ranks. Congress and victim advocacy groups have put military leaders on high alert since a Defense Department report recently estimated 26,000 men and women in uniform experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012. The report came at a time when the military was already reeling from a number embarrassments, including a sexual misconduct scandal involving dozens of Air Force basic trainers and a three-star general’s reversal of a sex assault conviction.
The blog so far features messages from Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer and Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, who heads a newly revamped SAPR office at the Pentagon. It also includes hundreds of posts from airmen who have weighed in on sexual assault and what they think will help reduce the crime.
In the video, Lincoln speaks candidly, at times pausing as if to collect herself. “Everything is so different after the attack. Rape is so violent. ... I can honestly understand why someone would not come forward. I’m not saying it’s right. But I can understand those feelings.”
She shared her story so that other people who have experienced similar traumas may seek the help they need, according to an Air Force news release.
Lincoln said she was inspired by an airman in her unit who survived the July 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed, including a fellow airman, Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress. The surviving airman wrestled with guilt and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, she said, and openly asked for time off to get help.
“Seeking help is a good thing. It’s a strong thing to admit you need help,” she says in the video. “If you break an arm, you wouldn’t try to mend it. Recognizing you need a professional is more important than trying to stick it out and be the tough one.”