Stacey Thompson, a Marine veteran, was drugged and raped by her sergeant while serving in Okinawa in 1999. After reporting it to her superiors and pushing them to investigate the case, Stacey was outcast and then separated with an “other-than-honorable” discharge, which left her without any military benefits.

Struggling with severe PTSD from the trauma, more than a decade later, Stacey waged a battle to regain her health and military honors, and today is among dozens of service members who are stepping forward to fight for an overhaul of the military’s justice system.

“In my situation, if the process of reporting the rape had been handled completely outside of the chain of command, it would have allowed me to see my rapist convicted and sentenced to justice,” Stacey said in a news conference. “To see that what happened to me 14 years ago is still continuing to happen now, for me that was a big reason why I felt the need to come forward. I can finally say I have the strength.”

Attorneys worked for four years on Stacey’s case, and this past January the Department of Defense upgraded her discharge to “general under honorable conditions,” which finally made her eligible for the VA benefits she earned and deserved.

Stacey has found healing through writing, art and surfing, and is now a professional glass mosaic artist with many hopes and dreams for the future. “My prayer is that my story can inspire others. My hope is that eventually the Military Justice Improvement Act gets passed. If we continue to state that we have ‘zero tolerance’ for sexual assault in the military than we must not act in a manner that continues to essentially, tolerate the behavior. Actions speak far louder than words,” she told WYSK in an email.

This is a video from VETERANS COMING HOME, an innovative public media project exploring the lives of post-9/11 veterans, the divide between them and their communities, and the stereotypes that veterans and civilians hold about each other.