A Promising Career Cut Short: Fighting To Survive Sexual Assault And Harassment In The Air Force

Romyer Witten


Romyer Witten grew up in New York City in the 1970s and 1980s. She lived in Harlem, but attended Catholic School in Manhattan. Her father, a Vietnam Veteran who served in the Army, was a mainframe computer repairman, and her mother worked in accounts for Ma Bell and AT&T. An uncle and cousin who served in the Air Force inspired her to join, and she contacted a recruiter when she was 14. She enlisted when she was old enough, feeling that joining the Air Force was an escape from life in the city, and she planned to make the Air Force a career. She was excited to be in Basic Training and enjoyed the friendships she developed there. Once she began training to be an Aircraft Maintenance Scheduling Specialist, she felt pride in the responsibility of taking care of the aircraft, and by extension the lives of the pilots and crew. Throughout her time in the Air Force, she served at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, RAF Bentwaters in England, and Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, taking care of F-15s, A-10s, and C-130s. By the time she left the Air Force nine years later, the passion and excitement of joining the Air Force was replaced by the pain and hurt of having being sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped multiple times by peers and seniors, and feeling that no one would take care of her. In this interview, she talks about her positive experiences in the Air Force, the joy of serving, and the pain and disillusionment of being sexually harassed and assaulted in the service. She describes being raped at Penn Station in New York City on her way home from high school. She discusses her Air Force recruiter, whom she admired during a three-year friendship, expecting sex if she performed well on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). She recalls being harassed, assaulted, and raped multiple times in the Air Force both in her barracks and on TDY (Temporary Duty), once fighting her attacker for over an hour and injuring her back in the process. While in the Air Force, she married a fellow airman, and notes that some of the trauma she experienced put a strain on their marriage, leading to divorce. Returning home to New York, she eventually took a job at West Point, and her son recently joined the Air Force. She still suffers from the trauma she experienced, but states, “I know my triggers.” At the end of the interview, she discusses the pride she feels in her service, but admits that it is bittersweet.


name Romyer Witten
service Air Force
specialty Aircraft Maintenance Scheduling Specialist
service dates 1988 1997