Speaking up, moving forward: VA supports survivors of military sexual trauma


shadow

Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual effort each April to raise public awareness about sexual assault.  Throughout the month, VA focuses on sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring during military service – also known as military sexual trauma, or MST. This year’s theme across VA isSpeaking up, moving forward: VA supports survivors of military sexual trauma”.

VA military sexual trauma coordinators, such as  Melica Wiley, of the Texas Valley Coastal HCS, are taking the theme to heart. Wiley thinks “of all the survivors of military sexual trauma who have remained silent out of fear and/or the stigmas associated with sexual assault. However, due to the #MeToo movement – many survivors for the first time in their lives felt safe enough to speak up.”

“The best way we can support survivors of sexual trauma is by providing a safe place where they can talk. Speaking up is essential for moving forward,” said Susan Thompson of the Fargo North Dakota VA medical center. “There’s power in speaking up, in acknowledging not only what happened but that what happened wasn’t the end of the story. You get to write the rest of the story and you decide where you go from here. It’s constantly inspiring to see the way that speaking up can bring people together, inspire energy for change. After trauma, so many people show exceptional strength and courage, saying this history will not define me, and making sense out of senselessness.“

At VA, Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma have access to a wide range of services to assist them in their recovery free of charge. Veterans may be eligible for free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services. No documentation of MST experiences is required.  In addition, every VA health care system has a military sexual trauma coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues at the facility and can help Veterans access relevant VA services and programs.

Sadly, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men seen for VA health care report a history of military sexual trauma when screened by a VA provider. Although the percentage among women is higher more than 40 percent of the Veterans seen in VA who disclose MST are men.

Because of this, coordinators and other VA staff make special efforts during Sexual Assault Awareness Month to show support for Veterans who experienced military sexual trauma by hosting awareness-raising and educational events.  Also, VA’s Make the Connection website has video clips of Veterans sharing their stories of recovery, as a reminder that survivors are not alone in having experienced MST or in having the strength to recover.

For more information, Veterans can speak with a VA health care provider, contact the military sexual trauma coordinator at their nearest VA medical center, or contact their local Vet Center. A list of VA and Vet Center facilities can be found on VA’s website, va.gov. Veterans can also learn more about VA’s military sexual trauma-related services online at https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/msthome.asp. 


IMAGE: James Leathem

James Leathem is a member of VA’s national Military Sexual Trauma Support Team, where he serves as the field and dissemination coordinator. Prior to joining the team, he was the social work section chief for mental health at the Northport, New York VA, as well as the military sexual trauma coordinator and VISN 3 military sexual trauma point of contact. He holds a masters in education and a masters in social work.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Portia Trotter    

    I am 100 percent disabled veteran, that have medical device which the VA had records, from Dr. Pauli in Warner Robins, GA caused unwarranted problems in my female area, and eventually messed up my bladder along with the RAD exposure. I have applied for additional injuries re my bladder, I wear 5 adult diapers at the same time. Someone that keep interfere with my DBQs and medical records and they are not getting to the proper section whom to input my information so I can be compensated for my bladder and RAD. The LAB REPORTS SHOW HIGH VOLUME OF RADIATION AND THEY ARE KEEPING MY COMPENSATION FROM ME. Please need my additional compensation

    1. Tina Howard    

      I have lupus and cancer along with ptsd. I’ve been turned down twice . I was at ft McClellan and I’ve been ignored. I wish I knew what exactly I should do . Thinking of you. I hope all turns out well for you .

  2. Full Name On A Public Blog For Russia I Think Not    

    This is not true. I went to the VA with two instances of sexual harassment and sexual trauma, and after one interview I was told that I am fine. The VA is not willing to help you for these issues, especially if they happened a long time ago and you don’t answer the questions the way they think you should! It’s all a lie and they don’t care! I was a teen and old men IN MY DIRECT CHAIN OF COMMAND were stalking, threatening, and held all of the power, and the VA knows it, and they can care less!

    1. Kenneth Roman    

      I applied for PTSD benefits because of the MST and even though my psychiatrist at the VA agree that I should be compensated and the psychiatrist that the VBA sent me said that he will recommend a 100% compensation. I was denied and my pro bono lawyer dropped me because I already have a 100 % combined compensation. I need help with my PTSD because of the MST.

    2. Calvert Nurse    

      Not true! The va has honored my claim for PTSD I Identify with you literally word for word! My mst accured when I was 18 years old that was in 1980. I filed my claim in 2013 and have been compensated for PTSD/MST. I have gone from 50% to my current compensation at 100% tpiu. You MUST not give up!! I repeat do not give up! Find yourself a VSO ( veterans service organization and more likely than not they will assist you.
      Take Care, and god bless!

      1. Courtney Monroe    

        Did you get your increase to 100% with PTSD/MST? Or did you have to add some other diagnosis on there? I just received 50% for PTSD and although I’m happy with that. I thought I would be granted more than that because of my issues.

    3. Liza colby    

      I couldn’t agree more. The va has not supported me as a veteran or mst survivor, even though their posters all around the hospital says they do. It’s a load of crock. I’ve underwent unspeakable horrors because of my gender in the military, yet va only want to focus on my pot smoking. Yoga is contraindicated for me because I use medical marijuana in California, approved by substance abuse and my psychiatrist. But women mental health, the very place I’m reliant on for help to process the sexually violent assaults I underwent and then the blaming me-turns their back and says they just wanted to focus on single episode rape. Mst is so much more than that. Until va staff psychologists understand that basic concept, which they don’t because they are all civilians and don’t know what service is, how can va say it supports female vets? It can’t. But it does, like this article or. Bunch of crap

    4. Michael Oliver    

      Thank You Calvert Nurse for your attitude and inspiration. Liza Colby, you’ve an admirer and fellow Med. Cannabis user via my MD and my own choice v/s ‘anti-depressants’. That “women mental Health” would be so bound to not looking at the/your big picture and how they can make life better for you is inexcusable. Hopefully they will read these.

  3. Deborah Henderson    

    Perhaps during this “MST awareness month” I can bring to your attention that where transportation is concerned, there is total ignorance that we exist. On more than one ocassion, I have found myself in a threatening situation. I was forced to travel for an hour and a half in an SUV stuffed with six men!!! It’s a travesty when the “VA’s care” is tantamount to sexual harassment, not to mention an additional tramatic experience! Perhaps your awareness campaign should begin at home!

    1. D. Young    

      I think not is correct- easily pushed back out the door, even when most of the evidence supports the claim.

      1. Tammy Pierce    

        Sitting in a truck with men is threating and tuff, my sister was the first female infintry Marine to serve on the DMZ, she wasn’t even suppose to be there. That tells you what happened to her repeatedly and by more than one at the time. She suffered and nothing was done. She went before the military board you have to get benefits if you’ve been turned down and she was humiliated futher. Pretty much told she had asked for it and because she couldn’t remember all of their names it must not have happened! Do most women remem ber their rapists names? She suffers from PTSD, manic depression (oh she had that before she went in the military so it doesn’t count), do you think it was made worse by all the trauma she suffered? I can tell you YES! She was never the same when she got out of the military. The military screwed her over and caused her health to deteriorate and her mind to snap! If those men on that board had gone through what she had lived though or if it had been their wives or daughters, those soldiers whould have been in the stockade and my sister would have her benefits! Shame ON THEM!!!

    2. BrownSugarC    

      I referred Vets that I met to an Army Reserve Unit in our City. She took their information and further documented everything that the VA might need. When they got to the VA she had case notes and the documentation for assignments and individuals involved. While I am back using the VA health care system again, we need to remember that most of the 80% of the individuals who are there never wore a uniform. They have no idea what our isolated duty is like and evidentially have no idea of the LONG history of American men and their of marching across a foreign nation and raping the women out of their ‘physical needs’. There are drugs that will make it temporarily impossible for a man to get an erection. So use them if they are unable to control their urges.

  4. Lisa garner    

    (Redacted) went to VA ER and staff/ police did nothing.

  5. s.williams    

    Back in the 70’s I was abused by a MSGT who happen to be my boss at the time. I became pregnant and was told I either had to get rid of the baby or be discharged. I chose to get rid of it then everything was pushed under the rug. For years I have had the guilt of losing a child due to this insensitivity. Now everything has gone the other way with the way the enlisted people are treated. I wish back then I had known how to handle this but I was just 17 right out of high school and all I ever wanted was to be in the Air Force. I got discharged a few years later. I have never been the same until I found a great person to council with. Who knew years later I could finally heal.

  6. Garry Emerson    

    All I’ve gotten from the VA is
    Your a liver. It’s been hard.
    I still have trouble with sleep,
    And my manic depression has caused me doing drugs, lose of time, and hard 2 have relation with a partner.

  7. Michael Oliver    

    #READING the comments ABOVE (and will the V.A. do the same??) reinforces my own experience as a veteran serving from 1966-1970 in the USMC and reaching 72 these next few months. I’ve an APPEAL (Claim of 2006) which is now twelve years and counting; albeit not much longer as the BVA notified me as/of 1/30/2018, that my “Decision” would be published within 90 days. I am mentally prepped to RETURN to the CAVC for round #2, anticipating the opportunity to present the “new evidence” collected when I was on REMAND. IF they (The BVA Law Judge) Grant my Claim/Appeal, we would NOT be returning,etc. My MST from 1970 has never been processed by the V.A./BVA, however having said that, they still have an opportunity to do so. Fortunately, the Court resolves incompetence if that is a factor within the Claim/Appeal. FYI, my Claim/Appeal is not centered around the MST, but it is part of the record; known as the RBA once one has reached the BVA and received a Denial, then Filed an NOD. “Record before the agency” (RBA). IF I can help another veteran within reason; I certainly would and will.

  8. Mr. Rogers    

    I am a male victim of MST.

  9. Brenda-Bryant- Shelton    

    Station at a small base in Alaska 1974. RAPE by senior leader, was told to keep my mouth shut I did. Became a drunk. Were was my support. Results MST PTSD and TBI . Still have trouble sleeping. After 30 years I am now getting help. Head very messed up, but I am moving forward.

  10. Rosemary    

    I was raped as an Active Duty Service Member, by SEVERAL Males. I hate that I never Spoke up about it, & it still bothers me to THIS day. Reasons: I was/Is embarrassed by it & didn’t think anyone would believe me, on top of that, I was a bashful person when I was younger So I remained silent. I now feel that I made a mistake by not telling my story & making those guys pay for their actions. I am no longer bashful & believe that in sharing, thei can be a sense of relief, although the healing process still remains.

    1. Patricia Lail    

      No worries…even speaking up they still do everything including blackmail to cover it all up. I speak from personal experience. 🙁 Dec 3, 2011 the night I returned back from my med board and went to my best friends birthday party off base. The local sheriffs department and command in Jacksonville NC both covered for two guys in my shop. The sheriff’s department did a shoddy investigation and didn’t even folow proper protocol. The command used a photo my ex took of me without my knowledge to ruin my credibility and also threatened to lock my snco up while possibly doing nothing to the guys as a way to keep me quiet. It was my snco’s wife who had the birthday party. He had been warned about fraternizing and parties before I transferred there. They promised if I signed some papers and skipped court they would kick the guys out at least….they didn’t. They got counseled for cheating on their wives. Might I add one just had a kid and one had one on the way? My ex…he was sleeping with our co-worker/his best friends wife. Our previous officer got in trouble for taking photo’s of military females and getting caught.

  11. Mary K Hayes    

    Hello,

    My name is Mary K. So not true for some. I had an evaluation at the VA (Michael E DeBakey on Holcombe and Almeda in Houston and was demoralized. She made me feel embarrassed after I answered all her questions in depth and looked side-eyed at me like it was my fault that I was sexually harassed and then I was turned down on top of that. So humiliating.

  12. Paige Kosderka    

    I wish it were exactly as written and there was support in any form. There isnt. I was assaulted in pensecola and in oak harbor it happened in 2003 and in 2004 and 2005. I am fighting to keep ptsd benefits and here are all these praiseworthy actions that never happen in reality

  13. Deborah Allen    

    I was raped twice, both times by an Active Duty Service Member. Once while in basic training, and again while station in Lawton, Oklahoma. I did not tell anybody or report it to anyone. Just went back to my room cleaned up and slept. I pushed it under for many, many years, until one day about 3 years ago my sister and I were alone and talking, and she stated that she had been raped when we were teens. I opened up and told her my story. After that I could not sleep, and started having anxiety attacks. I stopped touching my husband, and he noticed and kept asking me why I would not touch him, I couldn’t explain. I finally got the nerve to go speak with a VA Councilor about what happen to me. I have been diagnosed with PTSD/MST and Anxiety. I was told to apply for benefits, but was denied once. I have been told to reapply, but after reading the comments above I feel I would be setting myself up to raped again, but in a difference way. When you tell your story, and no one believes you, all that hurts resurfaces again. I am not sure I want to feel that way again.

  14. Wac soldier    

    Date raped and pregnant with twins by my “friend and fellow soldier” mouth sealed all their lives….slut. i heard didnt know you were like that over and over and over from everyone.

    Harrassed every day every formation being the only female in the unit… the b word, the c word slut, the wh word were substituted for cadence…

    Who you gonna tell? Ghost busters????? In the 70s it was just considered a stupid date. I was so stupid good little soldier WAC kept her mouth shut (and then i married him) it got worse but i stlll kept my mouth shut… its still shut. Who you gone tell? GHOST BUSTERS…

Comments are closed.