FORT SILL, Okla. -- Pvt. Fabio Londono, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, carried a secret since his childhood that he let out before he became a Soldier.He was raped.
When Londono was 6 years old, his 15 year old cousin abused him over a period of months."He said let's play a game. And I said OK let's play a game. He started touching me. I was little so I didn't understand what was going on.
"There was a point where I was like I don't think this is right," said Londono.
Face flushed, he retold how his cousin told him to keep quiet and even when his relatives discovered the truth they shamed him into further silence.
"He was abusing me one time and my grandmother came into the room, and she saw what happened and stopped my cousin. She took me with her and said you're not going to say anything and then she called my mother and she called my aunt. Instead of saying something to my cousin they just said hey he's alright and told me to shut up and say nothing to my dad."Londono lived with his mother and siblings in Colombia while his father lived in the United States. His father sent them money and Londono said most of the time it was spent on his mother's party habits.
When he would try to reach out to his father, Londono said he was closely watched because his mother didn't want him to retell the incident."In my experience, it is not at all uncommon for family to ask their loved ones not to say anything, more so in the cases of childhood sexual abuse I'm familiar with, but not altogether uncommon in cases of adult nonfamilial sexual assault either," said David Carnahan, Fort Sill Garrison Sexual Assault Response coordinator.According to the Department of Defense fiscal 2013 report released earlier this year, there were 5,061 reports of sexual assault made in 2013 (the Army had 2,149 of those reports). The percentage of male victims across the DoD was 14 percent, in the Army specifically, it was 15 percent of reported cases for fiscal 13.A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed over 23 percent of men experienced sexual violence during their lifetimes.
Londono kept the secret as he and his little brother moved to the U.S. to live with his father and step-mother in 2006.While the abuse stopped, his life still had rocky points as other relatives kicked his family out and stole their furniture. They were forced to live in their car temporarily."My dad is my role model. He's like I'm not even going to be mad at them I'm just going to let go. I'm going to let my God deal with it, and then we moved on," said Londono.
Besides forgiveness, Londono said his father also stressed the importance of hard work and education.
"He's always telling me you have to keep on your studies. You have to get a better life than we ever had because you know all the tribulations we've gone through."
Londono looked to the military for that reason.
"I was like I need a new start. I want to do something different. I want to be able to change the world and help other people through whatever situation they're going through. So I joined the Army."
Three weeks before leaving for Basic Combat Training he decided it was time to talk to his father about his past."I was like hey dad this is what happened. Before I leave for the Army I wanted to tell you this and I sat down with him and my step mom and I told them the story."I'm not afraid to tell it anymore because I know that it's in the past. It's part of me. I know I cannot forget it although sometimes I have flashbacks to what happened ... I'm like wow thank God I was able to come back stronger. Thank God I was able to literally look behind and not have hatred toward my mother or my cousin or toward any of them. I personally do not hate any of them. Even when they told me I was a straight liar and they gave me the cold shoulder and said I don't want to see your face anymore -- I still love them."
While Londono said he felt better afterward, his new estrangement with his relatives in Colombia cut through him.
"I had this feeling that I just literally lost half of my family ... and then I came to the Army."Surrounded by fellow trainees, Londono said their friendship helped him heal."With all of the training we've gone through, we've basically started sharing a bond. They're not even my friends. He's literally like my brother," Londono said pointing to his battle buddy. "And, my drill sergeants, even though they are our mentors, I consider them a second set of parents."
Londono is graduating BCT Oct. 10 and will move on to Advanced Individual Training to become a 68W, medic. He hopes his specialty in the military will give him the skills to help others, not just physically, but mentally."I'm able to work on a person one-on-one. I'm able to talk to them. Maybe relate to them because a lot of males, they might have gone through something similar and never broke the silence and in one moment they just explode in anger because of what happened before."
He said sharing what happened to him has made him more peaceful and even stopped his nightmares."I used to have flashbacks before, and I used to zone out thinking about that moment, always about that moment and what would happen if I told someone about that moment. But now I was like it's time to break the silence. It's time to tell someone it's time to get some help because I wasn't right, but now I am."
Drill sergeants in 1-79th FA were trying to determine which trainee should receive the 1st Lt. Fox Award for resiliency when Londono shared his story with Drill Sgt. (Staff Sgt.) Catherine Green."Expressing to me what he went through was tough to hear out because any normal person would think in the back of their head 'Goodness, how could a family put their child through this kind of abuse?' This kid is a good kid and the real human side of me wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything is going to be OK, but the drill sergeant, his drill sergeant, side of me had to just talk to him and tell him that everything will be OK and that venting about it is OK as well," said Green.Londono is receiving the 1st Lt. Fox Award during B-1/79th FA's graduation ceremony at McMahon Auditorium in Lawton.
"The mental abuse, physical abuse and struggles that Private Londono has been able to live through and throw it all in the past shows a lot of strength and I think that is what makes him deserve this award," said Green.
Londono said his first experience in the military is already shaping his outlook on life.
"Something I have learned with the Army is that you always come back stronger, we're always a family and no matter what we're always there for each other."