The pain runs deep for Army veteran Roxane Marie Montgomery.

The Oakland woman has been out of the military 19 years, but the trauma from being raped by two soldiers remains.

“I’m working at it,” she said. “It’s hard.”

Montgomery, 47, now lives day to day, plagued by an acute alcohol problem that she says was precipitated by the sexual trauma she experienced while serving in the armed forces.

She has been arrested many times for alcohol-related incidents, including driving under the influence, violating conditions of release and misuse of 911. She has been in and out of rehabilitation, sees a psychiatrist regularly and gets support from VA Healthcare Systems-Togus.

So far, nothing has worked. She does well for a while, then falls off the wagon.

Everyone who has been trying to help her — officials from the Oakland Police Department, the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office and the district attorney’s office — say she is intelligent, accomplished, personable and has great potential, but she can’t seem to move past her demons.

“The difficulty is that she keeps breaking the law, but our approach is 100 percent trying to get her the help she needs, and that’s the struggle,” District Attorney Maeghan Maloney said. “The police have to respond. They have no choice but to respond when she breaks the law, and we’re constantly trying to find a way to help her so that the conduct doesn’t continue.”

In the last week alone, police have dealt with her several times.

The day before Thanksgiving, she was arrested for drinking and violating conditions of release.

On Thanksgiving, she called 911, saying she had an emergency, and then hung up. Police found her drunk and took a pint of vodka and a six-pack of Twisted Tea from her house, and she was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

The next day, she dialed 911 again, saying she was not doing well, was taken to the hospital and summoned for both violating conditions of release and misuse of 911. Later that day, she was arrested for violating conditions of release again and taken to jail.

On Saturday morning, a police officer stopped her while she was driving on Oak Street in Oakland and found a bottle of vodka under the passenger seat in a brown paper bag. She was arrested again.

FRIENDS WHO COUNT

Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, who at the Kennebec County jail opened the only veterans block in a Maine jail, knows Montgomery and her situation well. He suffered military-related post traumatic stress disorder himself and was the focus of “A Matter of Duty,” an MPBN television documentary about post-traumatic stress disorder that also featured Montgomery.

Liberty said many veterans suffering from PTSD self-medicate with alcohol or opiates, have problems with anger management, become disorderly, get involved in domestic violence and commit burglaries and robberies.

Liberty and others who try to work with veterans — including courts, police, crisis workers and others — have a heightened awareness of their problems, share information and try to find alternatives when one approach does not work.

About 140,000 veterans were incarcerated in state and federal prisons as of 2004, the last year for which data was available in a 2012 report, “Healing a Broken System,” by the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance. The report said a national survey of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans found that 9 percent of respondents reported being arrested since returning from service, with the arrests more strongly linked to substance abuse and mental health conditions such as PTSD.

Montgomery said her most acute and more pervasive pain comes from the military sexual abuse.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that U.S. defense officials say the number of sexual assaults reported by military service members increased 8 percent in 2014.

The new data also included an anonymous survey that showed victims are becoming more willing to come forward, and it showed a decrease in the number of troops who said they were victims of unwanted sexual contact — declining from roughly 26,000 in 2012 to about 19,000 this year. According to the new data, there were nearly 6,000 victims of reported assaults in 2014, compared with slightly more than 5,500 last year.

The new data came as Congress tries to press for an overhaul of the military justice system to change the way that sexual assault cases are handled.

Liberty describes Montgomery’s case as acute, probably the most acute of 18 inmates who were in the veterans cell block over the last week.

“She has a soft heart and she’s thoughtful, and when she’s not drunk, she’s very reasonable and committed to sobriety; but alcohol has a hold of her,” he said.

FIGHTING DEMONS

Montgomery sits in her parents’ Oakland living room, tucking her legs under her body to get comfortable.

The blond woman is soft-spoken, articulate and open.

She is on a waiting list for a veterans substance-abuse program in Brockton, Mass., which she has attended twice, once for six months and another time for four.

“It’s a bad time because it is cold, and there are veterans on the street seeking treatment,” she said. “One unit I was at two years ago is a 46-bed unit, and it fills up like that, in the winter.”

It is Monday, and Montgomery has just arrived home from a weekend stay in jail. Her vehicle was impounded and she planned to go and retrieve it, she said.

She talks about her efforts to become sober and the fact that she constantly calls 911, requiring services of police and other emergency workers that might be needed in other places, and acknowledges that she ties up resources.

She does not feel sorry for herself.

“I still have to own my mistakes,” she said. “I’ve made some mistakes. I honestly thought I’d do some time in jail this time, but when they told me I could go home, they said the D.A. declined to prosecute at the moment.”

Many times, Montgomery blacks out and does not remember much about her drinking, calling police and going to the hospital, she said.

What often prompts her to drink is boredom, she said, and more recently, to dull the pain she has from shoulder and rib injuries she incurred when she became drunk and fell.

She said she joined the Army so she could travel. A 1986 Messalonskee High School graduate, Montgomery worked as a whitewater rafting guide three years after high school and then was a housekeeper at Sugarloaf two winters before entering the military.

While serving as a specialist from 1992 to 1996, she did tactical satellite communications in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War.

She went to the gymnasium at night, when it was quiet.

One night, she was raped.

“I never saw them,” she said of her attackers. “There were at least two. I wasn’t paying attention to what was going on. That’s when I was assaulted. I guess a couple of our own soldiers figured out that I was there alone at night.”

“I knew they weren’t any of my teammates,” she said. She said her teammates later figured out something was wrong.

“I hadn’t said anything about it, but when they found out, they got very protective.”

When Montgomery reported the rape, the military police and her commanding officer said it was her fault, that she should not have been at the gymnasium alone at night. “Back then, the military covered it up,” she said.

Montgomery later married a soldier and moved around the South for a while after they both left the military, but the marriage did not work out and they separated. They have a 14-year-old son who lives with his father in South Carolina. She lived in Orlando, Fla., seven years and worked for Homeland Security as a baggage screener. Later she worked in a security job before moving back to Maine.

When she came back to Maine she contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs for services. It was then that the memories of her sexual assault came back.

HIT FULL FORCE

“My serious issues with drinking started after my dad encouraged me to apply with the VA for benefits,” she said. “When I got accepted, they did an interview. They asked me about sexual trauma with the military, and they said I needed to talk about it. When I started talking about it, all the memories I repressed started flooding back, and that’s when the serious drinking started, in 2011.”

She was first charged with operating under the influence that year. She remembers it clearly.

“Someone complained about my driving and an officer pulled me over and I failed a field sobriety test, and he arrested me for my first OUI,” she said. “I did 24 hours in jail with three months suspended. I was 44.

“About one year to that day later, I got my second OUI. I spent seven days in jail and one year probation. It was supposed to be a three-year suspension, and they reduced it to nine months if I had an interlock device in my vehicle. If I breathe into it and I’ve been drinking, the car won’t start.

“I’m still an active drinker, so I decided to have my contract extended for a year voluntarily.”

She said she did well for a year, fell off the wagon and got to the point where she was blacking out so much, her sister took her two cats, Lola and Koda.

Montgomery, who does not work, gets 100 percent service-connected, military sexual trauma-related disability payments of slightly less than $3,000 a month.

The military never apologized to her for the rape, but the VA did, she said.

“At least the VA now admits that military sexual trauma exists,” she said.

Contacted Thursday, Lt. Col. Alayne Conway, of the Army Public Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., said she could not comment about a specific case involving military sexual assault, but she emailed a prepared document that outlines the Army’s efforts to train sexual assault responders and to enhance human relations, interpersonal communications and leadership training.

The Army ensures victims of sexual assault receive quality medical care, and since 2012, more than 100 sexual assault medical examiners have been trained each year. A sexual assault medical management office also has been developed in every military treatment facility.

Montgomery attends a weekly recovery group at Togus and waits for work from the Brockton hospital, where advocates there have told her recovery takes time. She carries hope that she will succeed.

“They say sometimes it takes people two, three, four times before it all clicks,” she said.

SEEKING HELP

Oakland police Capt. Rick Stubbert, who has dealt with Montgomery several times, said she is always polite with him.

“She calls me ‘captain.’ She calls me ‘sir.’ I think on some level she thinks of us as her family.”

Stubbert said he has never seen a case like Montgomery’s in the 16 years he has worked in law enforcement.

“We do care about her,” he said. “She just can’t not drink. That’s her coping mechanism.”

Oakland police have been working with Maloney, Liberty and others to try to find appropriate help for Montgomery.

“We try to come up with some ideas and different approaches,” Stubbert said. “We’ve tried everything and we’re still trying.”

Maloney said she could not discuss what officials plan for Montgomery, but said officers must respond every time she asks for help and they must take her calls seriously because she may be in danger.

“It’s not like the boy who called ‘wolf.’ They don’t have the option, at the third time, of not responding.”

If officials took a punitive approach with Montgomery, the maximum jail time she would serve for a class E misdemeanor is six months, according to Maloney.

“She’d be out in two months and it would continue. Even taking the most punitive approach wouldn’t solve the problem.”

It is important that Montgomery get the services she needs so the conduct stops, Maloney said.

“Everybody involved feels that what is happening is very sad,” she said. “She’s not malicious in her conduct, but it is causing harm, because law enforcement has to respond every time.”

Montgomery is scheduled to appear Dec. 16 in Waterville District Court on the charges of misuse of 911 and violating conditions of release.

Stephen Bourget, an Augusta attorney whom Montgomery said she plans to hire to represent her and has represented her in the past, did not return a call seeking comment. A spokeswoman in his office said Montgomery is not currently a client there.

On Wednesday, two days after an interview with the Morning Sentinel, Montgomery was again summoned for violating conditions of release after police checked on her because they had not heard from her since she was released from jail. They found her drunk.

An ambulance took her, once again, to the hospital.

On Thursday, Montgomery was weary and admittedly shaky from the experience. “They just kind of let me sleep it off,” she said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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