DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. -- Davidson County native Stephanie Schroeder is an advocate for victims of sexual abuse following the nightmare she suffered after reporting a sexual assault while serving in the military.
On Thursday, Schroeder stopped by FOX8 Thursday to talk about her experience and how she is turning her personal tragedy into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help others.
Schroeder has been invited to travel to Switzerland in November to speak before the United Nations at the Geneva Convention during the Elimination of Violence Against Women session.
At age 21, Schroeder joined the U.S. Marine Corps not long after 9/11.
A year and a half later, after reporting a sexual assault, the Marines diagnosed her with a personality disorder and deemed her psychologically unfit for the Corps.
Schroeder told CNN that the nightmare began when a fellow Marine followed her to the bathroom in April 2002.
She says he then punched her, ripped off her pants and raped her.
When she reported what happened, a non-commissioned officer dismissed the allegation, saying, "'Don't come bitching to me because you had sex and changed your mind,'" Schroeder recalls.
Despite the Defense Department's "zero tolerance" policy, there were 3,191 military sexual assaults reported in 2011.
Given that most sexual assaults are not reported, the Pentagon estimates the actual number was probably closer to 19,000.