When I arrived in San Francisco a month before the start of school, I was finally convinced I had put my traumatic past behind me. I resumed my routine of going to the gym. One morning, as I slowly warmed up, I sensed someone’s eyes on my back. I turned my head and spotted her, three feet away. I panicked. It was unbelievable! She was in here. I felt dizzy, my heart pounded, my body froze. I took a deep slow breath and looked into the big mirror in front of the treadmill. She was gone.. My mind was racing. I called the campus police, who asked “Are you sure it was her?” “I’m sure it was her.” “Well, if you see her again, let us know.”
After that morning, I started double-checking my doors and windows Then, on my first day of class, I noticed that the instructor of pathophysiology looked just like her: same face, figure, height, and hair style. The questions echoed in my head: “Are you sure it was her?” And more important, “Why am I still haunted by her after six months of PTSD treatment that supposedly cured me of my symptoms?”
What had gotten me to into this terrible state? It began with an unwanted sexual advance from a female ICU nurse I was deployed with in Kuwait. When this woman professed her sexual attraction to me, I refused her offer as politely as possible, especially since, as the only other ICU nurse, I might need her as my battle buddy. Then, in June 2012, the day the army announced the “Don’t ask, don’t tell policy”, she again expressed her desire for a sexual relationship with me. She persisted. She would not take no for an answer. I became irritated and angry. I was concerned about the remainder of my deployment with her. I reached out to my unit chaplain and my senior officers to get help. Then the woman became angry that I rejected her and had exposed her sexual identity to her senior officers. By the time a formal investigation was begun, I was anxious and jumpy. Those feelings linger today like an allergic reaction whenever something triggers my memories of my sexual harassment.
As a daughter of a Korean, Catholic, high school principal, and having been married in my early 20’s, I had not been exposed to homosexuality. I was comfortable with who I was, but my traditional upbringing had not prepared me to handle this unwanted same sex harassment. Whatever training I received in the military had focused on sexual harassment by male soldiers. I have been left to heal the damage caused by the sexual harassment, and the inadequate institutional response to it. Slowly I am rebuilding my sense of security and safety outside of the military that could not protect me.
Misun Moser is currently studying at UCSF to become a Family Nurse Practitioner. She joined the military with her son, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Since 2002, she has concurrently worked in the US Army Reserves combat support hospital as a Reserve Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nursing officer and as a VA hospital ICU nurse, after having pursued earlier careers as a dietitian and as a teacher. During her thirteen-years and seven months of military service, she has had the opportunity to develop combat casualty management skills by providing acute care in a 24-bed ICU/step down unit and by arranging air evacuation to a higher level of care in an U.S Army Combat Support Hospital in Kuwait for 11 months. She is committed to improving the life situations of underserved women and children.