Speaker sheds light on male sexual assault

Erin Zaranec

In 1999, Timothy M. Jones woke on the couch of his barracks in Japan to a 6’5” Marine overpowering him. While serving in the U.S. Navy, Jones became one of approximately 10,000 men sexually assaulted while serving in the military each year.

“For the next 20 minutes, the color in my voice was snuffed out,” said Jones, a former United States Navy sailor and sexual assault victim advocate.

Jones was raped by a fellow member of the armed forces. His attacker was later found to have raped four other men.

Jones served 27 months in the Navy before being honorably discharged for rumors of homosexuality in a time of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies. After coming out at age 18 to his friends and family, Jones joined the Navy with hopes of his sexuality being brushed aside.

Instead, it may have been the target of his attack, Jones said.

“In 1999, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ was in full effect. And you were who you hung out with. And if you (reported) sexual assault by (a) male, you (were) labeled as homosexual,” Jones said.

After reporting the crime of sexual assault against him, Jones said he was isolated from men he previously considered his brothers.

Jones presented his story in a Victim to Victor lecture in the Kiva Tuesday night, as part of Kent Interhall Council Sex Week programming. His lecture was sponsored by the Center for Adult and Veterans Services, LGBTQ Student Center, Office of Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services and the Student Multicultural Center.

He shared his story of sexual assault and discharge from the Navy, which was followed by a “wilderness” phase, full of drugs, alcohol and doubts about self-identity. After landing himself in legal trouble, Jones ended up in the Florida jail system for counts of fraud and was paired with a Veterans Affairs counselor. 

It was meeting that counselor that introduced him to the root of his “wilderness phase”: post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I had an answer to what I had been plagued with,” Jones said of his diagnosis. “I now had nothing to work with except the truth, except to deal with what brought me here.”

Jones learned more about himself, his identity and his PTSD during his jail sentence, during rehabilitation through a homeless veterans program and by getting involved with the Student Veterans of America. He has since become a victim advocate and inspirational speaker.

“I wanted to assist others who encountered the stigmas of sexual assault, those who struggle with identity … and how we can come together and have a very powerful conversation,” Jones said.

After his lecture, Jones took questions from Kent State students facing their own struggles with PTSD, urging them to get help from on-campus resources.

“I think speaking on (sexual assault and PTSD) are really important topics for a lot of reasons. It’s LGBTQ History Month and it’s also Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so to have an event focused on male victims, that’s a piece that’s not really recognized,” said Ken Ditlevson, director of the LGBTQ Student Center.

Joshua Rider, director for the Center of Adult and Veterans Services, coordinated Jones’ appearance on campus after hearing him speak at a conference.

“What caught me was what a uniquely human experience (his story) was and how it would touch so many groups on campus,” Rider said. “From the LGBTQ community, the student veterans, students dealing with depression, sexual assault, domestic violence — his story touched on all these communities we have right here on campus.”

Erin Zaranec is the entertainment editor, contact her at [email protected] 

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated Timothy Jones was a United States Navy SEAL. He is a United States Navy sailor.