USAF veteran visits RAFM, shares survivor story of sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Katie Mullikin
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England – U.S. Air Force Col. (ret.) Lisa Carrington Firmin visited Royal Air Force Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath to host trainings on sexual assault trauma and workplace bias for military members, civilian employees and leadership across the tri-base area. The tri-base Sexual Assault Prevention Response team invited Firmin due to her military experience and survivor story.

Carrington Firmin was the highest-ranking Latina and female officer in the Air Force at the time of her retirement in 2010, and has since dedicated her time to taking care of servicemembers though diversity and inclusion, and sexual assault awareness.

“This training is different, because it’s a new perspective,” said Abby Rose, 100th Air Refueling Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. “Despite hazing, sexual assault, racist and sexist comments throughout her career, she committed to being proficient in her role and was able to rise through the ranks.”

Carrington Firmin shared how she did not disclose her sexual assault until 10 years after her retirement. She became motivated to take action and speak up after learning about the death of Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Hispanic U.S. Army soldier stationed at Fort Cavazos, Texas, who was sexually harassed and murdered by another soldier.

“Hearing the story of Vanessa Guillen broke my heart,” said Carrington Firmin. “It triggered my own trauma and I could no longer stay silent. I realized that I could act and should share my story. I also started collecting stories of other military sexual assault trauma warriors.”

The retired colonel wrote a book in hopes to help reduce a stigma and encourage others to speak out and learn different ways to heal from their trauma.

The book facilitated group discussions during her visit with first sergeants, mental health providers, military readiness trainers and military family readiness center staff on trauma-informed care. The discussion allowed the audience to review real-world sexual assault vignettes from her book.

She spoke at two all-calls with Abby Rose and Dawn Cooney-Holmes, 48th Fighter Wing SARC, to provide a different approach to annual SAPR training. During her visit, she also lectured on self-care to the tri-base volunteer victim advocates and hosted a luncheon for senior leaders where she spoke on the importance of inclusive leadership.

“Our SAPR team hopes that her visit to the tri-base area will inspire military communities, educate members on the lifelong impacts of sexual assault, and discuss on how we can build a healthier culture in the military,” said Rose.