Healing From Emotional Abuse: Toxic Leadership Part 2: The Brandon Act: with Patrick and Teri Caserta
Trigger Warning... Suicide
Can you heal from abuse? What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day. And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough. Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation. But it doesn’t have to take years either. The lives of millions of other survivors around the worlds have been impacted by their narcissist. Yours doesn’t have to. To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.
Marissa: On Monday, we heard the horrific story from Teri and Patrick Caserta about the awful treatment their son Brandon Caserta went through while in the Navy. He was harassed, hazed, abused, and forced to work in a toxic environment with a known abuser. He was surrounded by toxic leadership and felt trapped, like his only way out was suicide. I can't begin to imagine what his parents are going through. Let's tune back into the conversation and see what the next steps are in Teri and Patrick's plan to bring justice for Brandon.
I want to hear about The Brandon Act. Tell me what it is, what it's doing, and how you're going about getting it into law.
Patrick Caserta: Well, The Brandon Act, it was developed to be a safe word for military, so they can utilize it, and have some privacy to their issues. So, an example would be. Somebody on a Tuesday morning went to work, and they were feeling depressed, they could just tell the lowest supervisor, they could tell them, “I have a Brandon Act issue. I invoke the Brandon Act,” and that person has to say okay. And the person that invokes The Brandon Act gets to go, I'm just going to say for simplicity, to medical. They go to medical, triage, or in this case, obviously, the mental health. They go to mental health, they'll see a counselor or a psychologist. And a plan will be put into motion, whatever their problem is. It could be marriage problem, relationship problem, could be bullying, hazing. Could be sexual harassment, MST, Military Sexual Trauma, it could be anything. And they'll get triaged to where they need to go, and get the help. It's to ensure that no one feels left alone, left out, and that they have nobody to talk to. Because I know the public believes that the military is like the fire department. It is not like the fire department. The camaraderie and looking out for each other and all that does not exist. Everybody's out for themselves, sort of, or don't have time. With The Brandon Act, they can't say, “We’ll go later.” “Could you go tomorrow?” “Could you go next week?” “We're busy.” “We have too much work." No. They get to go right then and there. They're gone. Just like that. Command cannot retaliate. They can't do anything. They go get the help they need. They might need three or four sessions with counselor or psychologist, and they might actually get healed, and they'll be fine. And while they're having somebody to talk to, they are introduced to the world of counseling and mental health. And understand that it's not what everybody tries to paint it to be. Like a big bad dragon, that’s going to ruin your career. Or if you end up on medication or something, your career is over. It teaches them that there’s actually a useful tool to be able to talk to someone. And it's teaching them that they can go do this, and get the help that they need when they need it. And it also prevents even the command. If somebody sat down from the command and talked to them for two hours, they're really not qualified to talk to them for a couple hours about their problem, if you really think about it. Just because they’re a supervisor doesn't mean they know what they're talking about. And then the question is, do they really care? Are they really going to put effort? Where if they go to outside source on the base, they're going to get proper help, and those people are going to care and want to help them, and listen to their problems no matter what it is. And it can remain confidential. When you're a veteran through the VA, the Vet Center gives you this… the VA will pay for any help you need, counseling, whatever you need. It's there for the rest of your life. So, it teaches them to go get help when you need it. Whether you're in or out. Veteran or not, it doesn't matter. You can get that help. And not to be afraid because 25 veterans a day are dying by suicide, also. Getting them to the door — Proactive system like the Brandon Act. That's what we need. Because he said the success rate is like 99.9% if you get them in the door. We need to get them to the door. If you're sexually assaulted, you need to go to the police. You don't have to go to your command. You do not have to go to your command. But if you believe that, then The Brandon Act is going to be a great tool for you because that enables you, if you're sexually assaulted or harassed, you go to medical and again you triage where you need to go. The police will get involved. It'll be documented and now taken out of the commands hands. Which means they can't cover it up. They can't retaliate against you, and chances are, that you will get justice.
Marissa: I think that's an awesome idea and I hope that included in it is some form of confidentiality. Built in. Just like when you report a sexual assault in the military, if you don't go to a SARC or victim advocate, it automatically gets escalated. And I would hate for that to be a pitfall of The Brandon Act. But that's a great idea and that sounds like a phenomenal tool for people to use. So, thank you guys for creating that. How can we support you to make sure that, that is a utilized tool?
Caserta: Getting it passed. Senator McSally is leading the way right now. She introduced it as a stand-alone bill, and she's trying to get it attached to the Senate's version of the NDAA. It is attached to the house version, and it has already passed. But now they go to committee and they figure out the best of both of their NDAA’s and figure out the best one, and that's the one that they use for the military. It's hoped that the Brandon Act will stay with it. She's trying to get added to the Senate version that way and betters its chances. But she is introducing it as a stand-alone also, which means awareness of it. We're calling Senators right now and making them aware of it. That way when it comes up and they're voting on it, they know what they're voting on. And can make a good decision on if they support it or not. Now the uniqueness of the Brandon Act… there are other Acts out there for sexual harassment. There's several, actually. The Brandon Act does not conflict with any of them. So, the Brandon Act can pass along with them. Well, obviously, you know about the Guillen one, IAmVanessaGuillen, with the independent investigation and things like that. That's great. We support it. We think it's fantastic. But the Brandon Act complements it. Well, it's just another tool. These are tools that they can use. All of them need to pass. But The Brandon Act in particular. Make the senators aware. That's what's going to get it passed. Awareness.
Teri Caserta: And your listeners, you and your listeners if they want to, they can call their congressmen and women and senators to let them know that they are interested, and want the Brandon Act passed. I believe the more people that contact their congressional representatives, the better chances of them knowing about it. And they want this passed.
Patrick Caserta: We've been contacted recently several times already asking if it's in effect. There's people in need, and we've helped people. We help them, you know, it's not passed. We do help them, and give them information on how to get help. But The Brandon Act definitely would make things easier for them. And I think they’d feel more comfortable with doing it. And that's why they're asking us if it's passed yet. Now we have two quests going on. We have the save lives quest. Brandon's legacy is to save lives. We've committed ourselves the rest of our lives to doing that for service members, or anyone, but in particular service members and veterans. The other path is justice for Brandon. We need all the help we can get because it is not looking the way it should. Although there are some things that are changing, and some attention that we're getting that is going to cause some things to happen, we believe. But again, it's hopeful thinking, and we have the evidence and the facts, we just need the military to want to see the evidence and facts and use it against the people. But until then, we're stuck on that justice path. But the other path is doing very well. And what's important is it's going to save lives. And the sooner it gets passed, the sooner we start saving lives. We're going to monitor the numbers, the suicide numbers, the sexual harassment, MST. We're going to monitor and see if it does get passed. And if the numbers go down. If they go up, obviously, there's more work that needs to be done. We need to amend it or many other things to get some other stuff put in place to bring these numbers down.
Marissa: Here's what I want. First and foremost, absolute call to action to all of my listeners to call your senators and representatives and tell them that you want The Brandon Act passed, because there's literally no reason for it not to. One suicide one veteran suicide per year is one too many. And the fact that the numbers are inflating now, so they have to reduce the qualifications. And I can get into that in a different episode, but it's disgusting. So, the second thing I want to say is that Teri and Patrick, I'm going to put you guys in touch with my friend Dennis Addesso, who is the president of a non-profit out of New Jersey, called Ma Deuce Deuce. And they work to help survivors of attempted military suicide or families of veteran suicide. And I think that this is something that they'd be really interested in and they have a ton of connections. Thank you, guys, so much for being here today. You are inspirational social justice fighters. I'm just so inspired by you guys. And I hate your son's story. I'm so sorry about it. But you guys truly are creating a legacy and you will get justice. The last question I have is, what advice would you guys give to parents of military to help them make a safe situation for their children who are serving,
Patrick Caserta: One thing you need to do is listen to your children, like you always do. But the point is, you need to keep your guard up when they're in the military. I mean, like 100 times more than you ever did before. You think they're in good hands. Like I said, we trusted Brandon’s command. The public trusts the military was in good hands. You can't think that way. We've had a lot of parents; we've saved a lot of lives already. They called us concerned about their children. And some of them were suicidal. Some of them were on the verge of it. Some parents were just worried they were suicidal. In the over worry about that. And to get them help, and talk to them, and make them open up to you. And find out, we had a phenomenal relationship with our son. We were the three musketeers. He was an only child, and we did everything together. He put up with 1000 times worse than I could ever tell you. That's what we didn't know. Had we known that things would have turned out differently. So, you need to keep your guard up. Keep in touch, even if you text every day with your children. Obviously, if they're in the war zone or something, you might not be able to do that. But as much as you can talk to them. Don't ever think that they're old enough to be on their own. Brandon don’t get me wrong. He was a young man, and he was more than capable of being on his own, and he was on his own. But he lost his true infrastructure of friends. But more importantly, he was putting an environment of people that he felt didn’t like him. And that's not a good feeling. And we all know that. But it reminds me of high school. And the poor kid was put in that environment. And ultimately, even the people that did like him turned on him. So, he had people to talk to. He had some good friends here. He had us. He had his uncles, aunts, his grandmother. There were a lot of people Brandon could have talked to if he needed to. Why he chose not to, I don't know. I think he thought he had it over-control. And I think they just broke him at the last possible second. Be open-minded where your children. Listen to them. Talk to them. Reassure them. And if you're overdoing it, they tell you over doing it, just let it go in one ear and out the other. Be like the teenagers. In one ear out the other. Keep doing it. Don't stop until they get through the main crowd in the military. You still do it to the end. I just caution you, if you're on a quest for justice, or something like that, there's not much out there for you. We'll guide you and help you in any way we can. We have resources and we belong to groups that can help you the best that they can. There's not a lot out there and that needs to change too. But unfortunately, that's going to take time and it's not going to bring back our kids. So, preventing it like The Brandon Act can, and other things can, and you can. Be proactive. That's the best thing you could do, because your doorbell could be next. I'm sorry, I hate to break the news to you. But right now, somebody's doorbell rang several times. Several doorbells rang while we were doing this, being told their son or daughter or loved one is dead.
Marissa: Thank you so much for all that I think that there was a lot of very helpful insight. Is there anything else that you want to share?
Teri Caserta: The only reason AE1 Jared Brose left the command is because he was overheard making derogatory statements about Brandon and his death two days after Brandon died. And the command opted not to take him to captain's mast, because that would keep him in the command longer. So, they just gave him, I'll say a bad evaluation, and sent him to the wing with the admiral, which would have been Commodore, Alan M. Worthy – Commander Atlantic Helicopter Combat Wing. But that is the only reason he was taken off of HSC 28. Otherwise, he'd still be there. And we also found out that he's doing the exact same thing, because now he's in another command and bragging about how he drove one of his sailors to suicide.
Patrick Caserta: AE1 Jared Brose got fired from that deployment, and that guy was having a hard time when AE1 Jared Brose was there. AE1 Jared Brose left, and this guy rise to the top. He's still in the Navy. He has a career. He's making a career out of it. He turned the corner back to the way he was before AE1 Jared Brose was over him. And had Brandon been away from AE1 Jared Brose, I mean, they knew bros was abusing Brandon and they did nothing about it.
Teri Caserta: Yeah, the only thing AE1 Jared Brose got after he was removed from that deployment was, we were told, one anger management class. That's it. And we are not the only family who's trying to fight for justice. I'm in so many groups and there are 1000s upon 1000s of families trying to get justice for their loved ones, because of either the negligence, the bullying, the hazing, the sexual harassment MST, that their loved one had endured. We are not the only family out there. We just don't want anybody else to go through what Brandon did, and we don't want any other family to go through what we have. Those people that killed our son, we would not wish this on them. That is the worst pain ever.
Marissa: Thank you guys so much for sharing everything you shared. And I'm so grateful that you guys are empowered to be making this change. It's huge. And you're right, I mean, nothing's going to change until the people who did this to Brandon and to probably 1000s of other service members are held accountable. I'm on board. I'm all in to do whatever I can to help. Thank you, guys, so much for dedicating your life and Brandon's legacy to keeping other service members safe. Thank you, guys, so much for being here today.
Casertas: Thank you, we appreciate it.
“The people shown below are an embarrassment and a disgrace to the Navy, our great country and to society as a whole. As parents of a truly wonderful young man, we demand those responsible be held accountable for Brandon’s death. Since there is not a statute of limitations on murder, it’s not too late to file charges.”
Commodore, Alan M. Worthy – Commander Atlantic Helicopter Combat Wing
Commander, Duane Whitmer – Commanding Officer (HSC-28)
Commander, Trevor Prouty – Executive Officer (HSC-28)
Command Master Chief, David Tokarski
Master Chief Pete Lerette
Chief Doug Delasanro
Chief Shelah Hennard
NC1 Remmy Spence
AE1 Jared Brose
Marissa: Everybody's story is a little bit different. Nobody has gone through exactly what you have. And although that can make us feel alone, know that by speaking out, you're inspiring others do the same. writing a book is what gave me my start on this journey. I decided that even though I didn't feel that my story was as awful as what others experienced. If I could help one other person process and heal from what they experienced. It was worth telling. And it did. I received a ton of support and private messages from people who felt inspired and empowered by me speaking my truth. If you have a story that you want to share, I would love to help you start this journey. The people who have endured sexual assault and domestic violence all have the same notion. They just don't want anyone else to feel the way they did. We want to support everyone. Do yourself and our community service and consider writing your story or contributing it to my breaking through the silence series your words and your voice are powerful and your story can help others heal from their abuse. If you're interested, please send me an email to me at MarissaFayecohen.com and I would be thrilled to work with you on breaking your silence. Thank you so much.
If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life. Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!
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