Members of Armed Forces vow to bring awareness to Military Sexual Trauma
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in an effort to shine a light on the issue, members of the Armed Forces are launching a campaign focusing on sexual violence within the military.
Military Sexual Trauma or MST is a term used by the Department of Veterans Affairs to describe sexual assault or harassment that occurred during military service. The VA hopes to bring about awareness of the impacts and recovery from MST during April.
“To be pulled out, to have them surrounding me…” CanDice Miller fights back emotions as she recounts her experience of sexual assault while serving in the United States Army.
“To have your superiors, those who outrank you and more or less control your future, to have that over your head…I always had to remain poised. I never let on that I was intimidated about it, but the aftermath for things to keep happening,” says Miller.
One in three female veterans and one in 50 male veterans have reported to their VA health care providers that they have experienced MST.
“The culture in our country, let alone in the military, has been very difficult for people who report. And unfortunately, survivors have not been met with support historically,” says Dr. Joanna Rosner, Veteran’s Affairs clinical psychologist.
Rosner talks about the feeling of betrayal service members dealing with MST face.
“When you're in the military, these are your brothers and sisters and you've signed up to serve your country and no one signs up to get sexually assaulted or sexually harassed,” she says.
The VA's Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is launching the “We Believe You and We Believe In You” campaign, focusing on the impacts of MST and the recovery.
“This is a place where they can get help and we want to be there for them, even if maybe in the past their experience had been negative, I'm hoping that we can turn that into a positive,” Rosner says.
Miller says she turned her trial into triumph by starting the Beauty From Ashes Foundation to help others dealing with sexual trauma
“We've consciously made the decision to turn our pain into purpose. We don't want anyone to start their journey toward healing the way that we did,” she says.
The VA's leadership team will be taking the “White Ribbon pledge” on Friday, which is a national call to action to stop sexual harassment, assault and domestic violence across the Department of Veteran's Affairs.