Victims come forward in hopes of turning trauma into hope.
Air Force veteran now leads a support group for others who faced torment
Having suffered abuse as a child at the hands of a drug-addicted relative, Olga Ferrer-Cintron decided at a young age to be a federal drug agent.When someone suggested she get her start in intelligence in the Air Force, she figured it would be an escape from a tough life. Instead, it led to more torment.
Ferrer-Cintron said she was sexually harassed before basic training and later brutally raped serving in Bahrain in Operation Desert Shield in 1990. Ferrer-Cintron, 43, is one of thousands the Defense Department reported suffer sexual trauma each year while serving, a topic getting new attention from top military officials and Congress.
“You’re scared to death,” said Ferrer-Cintron, who started A Black Rose, an online forum and support group for victims. “(The perpetrators) have total control over you.”
Ferrer-Cintron said her recruiter invited her to a party for all who passed the entrance test. She was first to arrive at his house. He said others would arrive soon. Once inside, she said he touched her legs. She told him she would tell his wife. Later, she believes in retaliation, the recruiter changed her job from intelligence to supply.
Another time, in a supply room, a sergeant exposed himself trying to get her to have sex. She resisted, threatening to tell superiors. She said he told her, “Who do you think they are going to believe?”
Ferrer-Cintron, who recently moved from Melbourne to Osceola County, posted the details of her rape on her ablackrose.com website.
While showering, a man grabbed her from behind, brutally raped her and choked her into unconsciousness. She never saw his face. Ferrer-Cintron said she laid on the shower floor until he was gone, then filed a report with military police. Upon leaving the base, she asked and was told there was no report of her attack.
“It’s like we don’t want to know,” she said. “We don’t want to know the ugliness.”
Ferrer-Cintron made it to intelligence, serving on counter-drug missions in South America over a nine-year military career. The physical and mental torment of the assault was too much to continue, she said. Now, her mission is helping other service members who suffered sexual trauma and raising awareness of the issue.
Each Memorial Day, she lays out a black rose for any victim who asks for one. Roses have been laid for sexual trauma survivors at parks in Orlando and in Washington.
“I would like to see that one day I won’t have a black rose to lay down,” she said. “I would like the Department of Defense to take the responsibility to protect our military.”
A Black Rose
A Black RoseFor more about the Brevard-born organization representing victims, go to http://www.ablackrose.org