FORT WORTH, Texas --
I am Technical Sergeant Sandra Perez and I want to share how joining the United States Air Force helped me develop a unique set of skills which strengthened my being.
For years, I lost myself in a cycle of childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, which stripped me of my voice and choice. Overwhelmed by fear, consumed by insecurity and with a desperate desire to be seen, I found myself in a recruiter’s office—with my abuser.
Once more, he had decided what I needed to do to become “more of a woman” and I believed “I needed to work harder to earn his love, because I wasn’t enough.”
The military and its training challenged me to discover a variety of strengths inside of me that I didn’t know was there. It gave me the space to lean into to my spiritual journey which in turn gave me the hope and resilience I needed to go from victim to feeling empowered. My faith has also taught me no matter what cards we are dealt, God can redeem it all. His love, not only meets us where we are, but also never leaves us where we are. He always takes us by the hand and leads us into life.
I stand here today, as a witness that God continues to transform my valley of trouble into a gateway of hope.
I stand here today, as religious affairs Airman and victim advocate, to share that I have found purpose in my pain.
I stand here today to share my story. According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence statistics, “on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.”
I believe that every hurt, rejection, or disappointment I’ve gone through was and still is trying to keep me from reaching a glorious and far greater “yes.” If you’re reading this and find yourself relating to my story, I want to encourage you. Say yes to opportunities that challenge you to be courageous and grow. To be limitless, and pursue things that set your heart on fire. I believe this for you too!
For the times you do not believe you can make it through hardship or pain, please know we are here for you. Please reach out to your wing helping agency resources—chaplain corps, Military One Source, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Violence Prevention and Integration office, and mental health.
Find your inner strength and know you can make it through anything. Say yes to being bold. Say yes to using your voice.
**If you or a loved one needs help, please reach out!**
301st Fighter Wing Prevention Resource link: