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Kori Cioca: My Life Since The Invisible War

 

Since The Invisible War first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, my life has changed in a way that was completely unforeseen and unexpected.

For one, people who know nothing about me – complete strangers – stepped up to take care of my medical situation when the Veterans Affairs Administration wouldn't.  In the last year I’ve had procedures done to correct my bite, which was previously causing my muscles to spasm, even in a resting position.  I’ve received my final upper arch of veneers and am a week away from my bottom arch being finished as well.  I also receive nerve block injections every 3 weeks.  While it might sound painful, these are amazing because they help me eat real food.  With these treatments, I’m not confined to the soft diet that limited me for so long.  My doctor who gives me the injections is also looking into arthroscopic options for the joint.  He recently advised that, "The only way to fix the anatomic defect would be to break and fix your jaw. This is risky. And frankly I don't know anyone who would be able to complete it without risk. I don't think it is worth the risk to try to repair the defect and it can do more damage."

I was upset to learn that the damage in my face was too far gone for the surgery I was supposed to receive in 2006, but after 7 years without treatment I honestly thought the rest of my life would be spent in pain.  Every night I thank God for my supporters and generous donors.  I'm sure they understand how helping monetarily to fix the damage is a big step in my case, but how their help has given me psychologically support as well is something they could never, ever imagine.  My pain is a constant reminder of what happened to me, and because of the support I’ve received form my donors, I will get a chance to maybe have a day without it that pain – that constant reminder of what happened.  With that they have granted me the hope that ceased to exist before.  I am forever indebted to them.

Secondly, as I read my paragraph above, I realize that I can’t really say "who know nothing about me", because in all actuality anyone who has watched the documentary knows everything about me. That was very overwhelming at first, but the ease came from the flooding of e-mails from other survivors who said that my story told their story.  I even met a woman at a screening in Yellow Springs, Ohio who stood up in front of the entire audience during the Q and A and said she had just told her story for the first time in 19 years, and that seeing The Invisible War gave her the power to forgive herself.  It is healing for me to know that sharing my story has given others their voice and the knowledge that they are not alone.  The outpour of support following the film has filled me with the strength to keep going and has once again given my life purpose.  I am grateful for that.  And because of that, for the first time in my life I no longer have to feel the blame, embarrassment and shame of being raped. The military made me believe that if I would have protected my body better, he wouldn't have entered it.  I am sad to have been a victim, but fortunate to consider myself a survivor of our military's invisible war.

Finally, without the will and outrage of others, MST would still continue to be overlooked.  With that, I want to say "thank-you" to the people reading this who have offered MST victims support – be it directly or indirectly be helping to raise awareness of this awful issue.  Thank you to Ms. Susan Burke for your bravery, demanding change and striving to seek justice for MST victims.  Thank you to my donors for your unconditional generosity, compassion, and support.  To Congresswoman Speier for your continued efforts in the halls of Congress and for pushing for the passage of the STOP Act H.R.3435.  To Congressman Turner for your efforts in my case, as well as in Congress and your unwavering dedication to veterans.  To my doctors – Dr. Amol Soin of the Ohio Pain Clinic in Dayton, OH your constant, time, care and attention to help a veteran in need, and of course to Dr. Thomas Hedge as well.  I couldn’t have made it here without the strength I received from my mother, and the understanding that Ioan, Kathryn, and Iustina Cioca granted me.  To my husband, Robert McDonald: thank you for standing with me, loving me unconditionally and without hesitation.   And to my children, yes plural, Rob and I welcomed a baby boy in May.  Without their love I wouldn't have an anchor to stay on this earth.  Last but not least, Mr. Kirby Dick and Miss Amy Ziering for crying with me, hugging me, but most of all, making me, this issue and other survivors NOT INVISIBLE. 

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commented 2014-07-12 18:37:09 -0400
Has anyone taken a moment to break the SOBs face as he had done to you.. i know people like to pray for peace and not seek revenge, but in some cases, i am for an Eye for an Eye or perhaps a Jaw for a Jaw.. Keep Strong Kori and Robert, PTSD is no laughing matter… from a U.S. VET
commented 2014-04-15 18:03:39 -0400
I watched the Invisible War last night and I was shocked at what it is going in today’s military and what has been going on. You are a strong woman and even in your weakest moments, you were strong. You could have given up and rose to heaven, but you stayed for your children and your husband. You have more to do on this earth and God was trying to show you that when he gave you your little girl that day. You have given me strength to keep going when I have felt like giving up. If you can smile and move on from your past, then so can I. Your story and the invisible war has given me the inspiration to want to work with families struggling with PTSD related sexual assault and create awareness. This cannot be fixed overnight, but someone has to start the conversation. Keep up your great work!
commented 2014-03-17 22:37:13 -0400
Hi Kori

I just finished watching the documentary on Netflix. I live in Canada, and though the documentary is about the US military, I don’t believe it is only a US problem. I plan to tell everyone I know about this movie, to raise awareness as best as I can. I have three daughters, and I would now be horrified if any of them had an interest in the military. You are a very strong woman, you and all the other survivors. I hope you one day will be living a completely pain free life.
Also, I would like to applaud your husband for standing by you through it all.

- Helen Pinch (NS, Canada)
commented 2014-03-11 18:10:35 -0400
Hi Kori

I have just finished watching the documentary, and your story brought me to tears, your an extremely courageous women and you have my deepest respect and gratitude for speaking out for justice. Your in my prayers for healing. God bless your husband and your family. I too hope justice prevails for you. You are an immense inspiration for persevering. I hope the rest of your life is filled with joy and gladness, remain strong and determined. You are Amazing, Jesus bless you
commented 2014-03-07 16:47:33 -0500
Hi Kori,
I watched this film as it was mentioned in a film review show on BBC national radio in the UK today and recommended by a top film critic. I am glad I found it despite knowing beforehand that it was harrowing.
Yes it was painful, disturbing and heart-breaking but the strength and fortitude of the women involved, and their search for justice, was truly awe-inspiring.
The part of the film where you read your suicide note saw tears streaming down my face and is one of the most emotive scenes I have ever witnessed in ANY documentary.
Never give in Kori, never let them win. You are unstoppable and unbeatable. You have a beautiful family and a fantastic future watching your daughter grow up to be as strong as her Mommy. Congratulations on your new addition but I warn you now “boys are trouble”!!
Never let the past deny you a future however painful that past was. You are a true inspiration and I am pleased to read the positive news in your blog above.
I sincerely hope that your fight for justice will prevail and justice will be eventually served to those who have damaged the lives of yourself and the other incredibly courageous survivors.
Live long Kori, love and light to you and all yours from England. Nasher.
commented 2014-03-06 15:46:44 -0500
I just watched this movie on Netflix here in Canada. I was brought to tears watching all of these stories. You are all very brave women and I admire you all for your courage in standing up to these bruts and coming forward with your stories. Good luck to all of you and I wish you only the best.
commented 2013-06-29 22:11:12 -0400
I just finished watching this movie at home thanks to my city library. I’m wishing you and all victims and your families the very best. I am ex-navy and have witnessed the dishonor of my peers in other ways and am deeply ashamed of our military. Over time I realized the reality that there is no god. Love is what matters. LOVE never fails, but we are failing to love.
commented 2013-06-27 20:44:21 -0400
Kori, I commend you for standing against all odds to tell and re-tell your story until it was finally heard, and finally acknowledged. What a long, hard, cathartic road you have traveled! Good does triumph over evil, but it takes persons of fortitude and immense courage to keep moving forward. The one disturbing question that I have not seen answered, is, where is, and what repercussion has your effort had on the lowlife that disabled and raped you? And to the atrocious individuals who violated and tortured all the other heros in the film? Why haven’t their names, and their shame, been made public? Please don’t tell me they have gone unpunished for their actions, or that they have not been held accountable. That cannot be allowed to happen. If nothing else, they should be made to stand in the glaring spotlight of the truth, and not protected by the armed services, while you and your brave company had been ignored for so long. God Bless you and yours! And God Bless your family!
commented 2013-06-27 15:48:37 -0400
Yesterday, we viewed The Invisible War at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and our leadership has taken a strong vocal stance against sexual assault and intimidation, and for the victims and their ability to report and recover without stigma or repercussions.

I was truly saddened by your ordeal in the film but am so very encouraged by your update in this blog. I wish you the best and may God give you blessings and strength to persevere and inspire others.
commented 2013-06-25 20:16:57 -0400
Kori. a purple heart doesn’t even come close to your accomplishments and what you have gone through. You are like Rosa Parks in my eyes, you’re standing up for justice and i support you 100%
commented 2013-05-29 20:02:14 -0400
Hello Kori. My unit just finished watching the invisible war. I wanted to commend you on your bravery for standing up. It takes alot to recover from trauma such as you experienced. It takes even more to make that trauma public knowledge. With that hurdle behind you, you and your friends from the movie have taken the first steps to changing the culture of the military. I would also like to commend your husband on his support and his restraint. Congratulations on your newest addition to your family.
-SFC Westcott
commented 2013-05-06 23:23:19 -0400
Hi Kori! My name is Karly Danos, I am 19, and a student at Miami University. My parents live in West Chester, OH. I just wanted to say a very sincere THANK YOU for not only your service to the U.S military, but also your bravery in speaking up about PTSD and rape. I truly admire you and look up to you for your strength and courage, and I am so happy that you are healing. I appreciate all that you and your family have done to make this world a better place. Congratulations on your baby boy! I wish you and your family nothing but happiness and success for the rest of your life’s journey! I will be praying for continued healing and happiness for you and your family. Again THANK YOU! If there is anything I can do to help you or your cause please let me know! It would be my honor to serve you!
Sincerely,
Karly Danos
commented 2013-05-03 02:54:37 -0400
Kori, I am 18 years old and my mother insisted in me watching “The Invisible War” before I make my decision in joining the US armed forces. I would like to thank you and the rest of the women and men who did stand up and fight for what you know in your heart is right, as well as mine. I could’ve been another victim of MSA if you had not taken that stand. I refuse to accept that MSA is an “Occupational Hazard” and will not serve until I know I will not be violated by my superiors and PUNISHED for it. It is sad to know that the military is loosing the very good, courageous people that they need and keeping the scum who should be locked up. You are my hero and thank you for your service in the coast guard. I pray for the best for you and your family, you deserve it. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers…
commented 2013-03-13 21:32:39 -0400
Kori, I know your story all too well. I retired from service after twelve years from the US Navy and I know your fight with the VA first hand. It took me over a year to get my rating, and a large part of it was denied. I devoted a large chunk of my career (six years) to working with victims, I took over the largest SAPR program in the Navy in 2009 after it was devastated by mismanagement, rebuilt it, and started training E-6 and above in how to properly deal with these cases and how to treat victims. With the full support of the base CO, I was permitted to “victimize” senior leadership exactly as they had done to dozens of my clients. It earned me a Navy Commendation Medal, but I ultimately left service and am working on my Juris Doctor at Regent Law in Virginia Beach. It was the dozens of victims like you that got me there, and has kept me going. I still have victims come visit me at school, and ones who were discharged call me and ask for help with the VA. We are out here, we are listening, we are here for you…
commented 2013-03-02 10:04:55 -0500
You are a brave and inspiring woman. May God bless you and yours always.
commented 2013-02-25 01:54:29 -0500
Kori, I just want to say thank you — to you and all the other brave men and women like you who had the tenacity to speak up. Because of your courage, the Department of Defense is actively trying to fix the same system that failed you and so many like you. Because of your testimony, countless others may never have to suffer, and future offenders are more likely to be convicted for their crimes. I know that no words of mine can ever hope to comfort you as you and your beautiful family strive each day to recover from these traumatic events, but you have inspired a whole new generation of servicemen and women to speak up against sexual harassments and assaults, and to help the victims of sexual violence in our military begin to heal. So again, I thank you for your courage, for sharing your pain with the world, so that someone else will not have to suffer.
commented 2013-01-19 19:23:27 -0500
Kori – I am currently serving member of the military (not US). I was sexually assaulted (although NOT raped) last Spring on a training exercise. I and watching the movie right now and it is making me nauseous.

I survived PTSD (due to a different incident) and made it through the other end – you can come out the other end. I am a Mom and wife, on no meds and have very little remaining symptoms. I had EMDR. It worked for me.

My thoughts are with you.

I reported the attack and the member was arrested, and convicted. It is upsetting because I know he will do it (and worse) again. I will say everyone was very supportive and protected me after. The stupidest things bother me. It bothers me that there is a description of me naked in that report. It bothers me that everyone has to know.

Someday I will tell my daughter, and I will tell her that I stood up in front of a theatre full of people and faced him, and he was convicted.

I hope she is proud, even though I was terrified the entire time.
commented 2013-01-15 23:22:45 -0500
Kori: I am so relieved to hear you have found providers to give dental care!! I am a dental resident at the University of Washington Oral Medicine clinic where we see thousands of patients annually with TMJ, myalgia, and neuralgia, similar to your case. As I watched the documentary, and you presented your case, I knew we had to get involved. Our clinic is world-renown and provides evidence-based care – and has successfully treated tens of thousands of TMJ cases in the last 30+ years. After raising hell all day in clinic, I realize I should have done a big of digging first, seeing as you’ve found help! :)

We see patients daily with similar pains and conditions and are able to successfully treat and rehabilitate them. Every. Single. Day. If you’d like a second opinion or someone to review your case, I see the world experts on TMJ on a daily basis (who wrote most of the text books and travel across the nation doing research) and can have them review your case (we have weekly case presentations). Please don’t hesitate.

Nicole Murray DDS, MPH
nrmurray@uw.edu
commented 2013-01-13 13:45:34 -0500
Kori! After hearing your story and watching the documentary I was moved. Probably the most relatable moment was the night you woke up screaming and played with your daughter in the leaves. I wanted to know if you’d ever heard of EMDR. It is commonly used for PTSD to help with nightmares. Mostly it is used for veterans who have been in combat. I am not a veteran, however after 6 years of PTSD causing horrible nightmares, I sought treatment in the form of EMDR. It is difficult, but very effective if you find the right person (therapist, MFT Or EMDR specialist) to do it with. And after my treatment I can say I haven’t had a nightmare in a year.
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commented 2012-12-31 01:29:30 -0500
May God Bless.
commented 2012-12-30 02:37:22 -0500
And may 2013 bring you more strength love and happiness into your life. This is gonna be Kori ‘s year. Like you have to kick some ass this is upcoming year. Be the woman you want to be. The mother and wife you want to be. All fear aside because now you know that many people have your back. You’re an inspiration. Happy New Years girly :)
commented 2012-12-29 14:41:15 -0500
Why not post the assailant’s names and photos? Let them be afraid. Let them wish they had got Justice instead…
commented 2012-12-27 23:45:01 -0500
To Kori and everyone who shared their story, than you for having the courage to shed light on this horrible reality. Know that you are not alone and together we can make a difference and WE WILL create change! Your strength is inspiring. Never lose hope.
commented 2012-12-27 19:34:50 -0500
Kori and the others who volunteered to share their horrible experiences with the world…I commend you on such a brave and courageous act. I am also a military veteran and survivor of MST and it was of great comfort and validation to know that I am not alone. I would like to reach out to you and offer you any help you may need with your claim and apologize for such terrible treatment you experienced with the VA in your state. I work for the Regional Office in Indianapolis as a Veterans Service Representative and we do all the development and processing of veteran’s claims and if I can answer any questions for you or be of any help please do not hesitate to email me: jbiffle75@comcast.net. I would be honored to be your friend. Much love. Julie Biffle
commented 2012-12-27 18:31:52 -0500
Thank you for sharing your story. I admire you so much. I especially admire the way you continue to try to help other women—by speaking out, by appearing in the film, and by the way you live your life every day.

As I watched the film I wondered why none of the perpetrators’ names were ever mentioned. There must be a legal reason for the victims of rape not to disclose—otherwise I can imagine that naming my assailant would be the first thing I would do in this situation. I wish Kirby Dick had somehow found a way to attach faces and names to these horrible crimes. There should be a web site that outs these pieces of shit. I really can’t understand how polite everyone is being—both in the film and in the media surrounding the film.

On that note, let me also thank you for your comment about wishing your rapist could somehow fall overboard and be chopped into shark bait by the propeller. That sounded just about right.

All best to you, Kori.
commented 2012-12-20 23:29:14 -0500
To all the brave women who participated in this film. THANK YOU for bringing this harrowing and shameful injustice to the attention of the Nation. I have always held the U.S military in such high esteem. I can’t tell you how heartbreaking and enraging it was to learn about the humiliating brutality that befalls our female troops at the hands of their OWN colleagues. I personally will do all I can to contribute to putting an end to this atrocity. This isn’t only an issue affecting women in the military—it’s a human rights issue and it needs to kick down the doors of Capital Hill.
Kori, all our survivor female troops and vets, our hearts are with you. Stay steadfast.
commented 2012-12-20 05:32:45 -0500
Kori,I am glad you are doing better and congratulations on your new boy. You deserve good health and happiness.
For all the survivors, past, present, and future, you’re action is incredibly courageous. I would like to thank you all for your bravery in telling your personal stories.

As a woman Army veteran myself, I have experienced and seen military sexual assault and harassment. Even through the Army ‘buddy system,’ I have witnessed rape. I too was told to ignore sexist comments, avoid particular men, not drink too much, not walk alone, not dress a certain way, and just get over it. As if doing any of these thing makes it a valid reason to be harassed, assaulted, or raped. As if it’s a choice to endure a traumatic experience.

This film has made a huge impact on me. I believe if you’re willing to serve and fight for your country, you should be treated with the utmost respect and honor. The DOD’s culture of denial, shame, and flat-out indifference has to end. I am fed-up with it. I promise to fight. You are all much more than survivors, you are true heros. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me.
commented 2012-12-19 16:46:07 -0500
Thank you. I still struggle in not believing I was to blame for what happened to me, but your story and all the others in the Invisible War have given me something to grasp on too. I’m not alone and even though I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, I am grateful for the strength you have shared with me.
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