Hello. I am a female veteran with MST PTSD which is PTSD due to Military Sexual Trauma. I have been trying for well over 11 years to obtain treatment from the Dayton VAMC for my PTSD...to no avail. The best they have been able to offer me to date is to tell me that I should go to the Tampa VAMC for a 7-week in-patient program. I keep telling them that I'm a single parent, with no help from family members. I just can't up and leave for 7 weeks with a son still in school! So this is taken by the VA that I'm being the "difficult" one and being resistent to treatment.
I've also been contacted by other women vets who are in similar situations...a lack of adequate treatment available at their respective VAMCs or they are unsure who to contact when they are wanting to find a treatment facility that is for women vets only. Currently there is no such list on any VA web-site for women to refer to for treatment options.
I initially contacted Dr. Kathleen Chard at the Cincinnati VAMC (she is the MST PTSD Program Coordinator). She said she could not help me and told me that she was forwarding my e-mail to Dr. Margret Bell, Manager for Education, Resources & Practices, MST Support Team, VA Office of Mental Health, National Center for PTSD.
I figured this was a good thing...the National Center for PTSD! Finally someone who would be able to help with the simple task of getting a list together of all available treatment resources for women vets. I was wrong. My request was denied. Several times. It is the opinion of Dr. Bell that women vets should talk to their PCPs at their respective VAMCs for any MST PTSD issues and then be referred to the mental health clinic.
She still believes this even after I told her that most PCPs are male and women are not going to be comfortable speaking with a male about military sexual trauma issues.
Sadly, even the National PTSD Center for Women Vets does not care about the welfare of women vets to assist with such a simple request that would help so many. I wanted to write to you about this to let readers know what is really going on. Thanks for all you do for veterans everywhere! USAF Veteran
Overall, the mental health treatment arenas at our VHA facilities are receiving a failing grade. This isn't any secret, it's public knowledge and frequently on the front page or the national television news.
I'm of the opinion that the GWOT is creating a new generation of PTSD unlike anything we've ever seen before. We're subjecting our military to unheard of commitments using multiple deployments and extended lengths of deployment. In my own family my stepson is back in Iraq for his second tour. He was originally to be there a year which was extended to 15 months and then it was 16 months before he returned "home"...a base in another country. He was at that home for 12 months and is back in Iraq. He was "stop-lossed", a term unheard of prior to the GWOT. His commitment to our military is no longer well defined with a beginning and an end...he's an indentured servant that may be kept forever with no release date required.
The toll this takes on the mental well being of our military can't yet be measured. But you can depend on this: It isn't going to be pretty. We're setting up mental health issues that will trouble our nation for generations to come.
In that group of functionally disabling issues comes a relatively unknown sub-set of veterans who are rarely talked about in public. Those are our soldiers who are victims of MST...Military Sexual Trauma.
The DVA and DOD like that term...MST seems sort of clean and efficient and non-offensive to say. To call it "military" sexual trauma distinguishes it from plain old regular sexual trauma which may be dirtier or more violent somehow. As a clinical diagnosis, saying MST is easy. We can talk about it in an elevator with others listening and they may think we're talking about the common cold or an ingrown nail. "Oh well, you know...she claims MST but I believe that she'll be just fine."
Doesn't that sound all upbeat and chipper?
The DVA and DOD won't use any reality based terms. In my mailbag, we'll call MST what it really is. Let's say them out loud now.
Go ahead, speak aloud to yourself. Take that sentence above and replace MST with any of the following terms in any combination, as in "she claims _______ but I believe she'll be just fine"; Rape. Unlawful sexual intercourse. The forced placement of a penis in her vagina. Unlawful sexual intrusion. Sexual intercourse with a woman against her will. Nonconsensual sex. Sexual penetration. Sexual intrusion. Lack of consent. Forcible compulsion. Kidnapping. Sodomy. The forced placement of objects in her vagina. Stripping her naked. Forced oral copulation. Anal sex. Fondling her sexual organs. Ravishing. Sexual abuse. Sexual intercourse against her will. Gang rape. Attack. Violation. Carnal abuse. Dishonor.
The National Victim Center http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/Main.aspx estimates that only 16 percent of rapes in the United States are reported each year. In the military it's probably much less than that. We don't know, the DOD isn't much interested in talking openly of their little dirty secrets and seemingly even less interested in doing anything about it.
The public face of our military has plenty of women up front and working hard to defend our country and our freedom. Behind the scenes, the macho character of the military isn't quite as accepting of women in the ranks. Oh sure...they make great nurses (better than those male nurses we all suspect of something funny) and an occasional woman as company clerk is OK but it ends there. Women, like homosexuals, have no business in a man's world and what happens to those who force their way into it is pretty much what they deserve, right?
It's the military way. If we step over a line and we get beat up in a barracks party, we brought it on ourselves. If a woman is forced to disrobe and violently assaulted by one or more young men, well hey...why the hell was she there in the first place? She should have known better. We all know young men have urges and given the chance, our supercharged soldiers will find outlets for all that extra energy. The female soldier was warned to protect herself. She didn't and now look what she caused.
The military way carries over into the DVA. The attitude that rape isn't a combat injury, it's only a little sex, is prevalent. There aren't any visible scars so how can you be suffering all that much? Get over it sweetheart.
The female USAF veteran who wrote to me above is one of dozens who have contacted me. They each have a similar story to tell. It begins with an unsuspecting woman doing her duty for God and country and a male (or males) who decide that she's an object, not a soldier, and they use her in their strange search for power. If she reports it, the command is first concerned with the command. Then the concern is the future of the men accused. Finally the female is thought of as a problem child...efforts are mostly how to get her the hell out of the command. She's trouble now and best shipped off to another place.
Once into the male dominated VHA system, she gets an offer for PTSD therapy...maybe. The PTSD therapy is usually related to combat and the treatment center is dominated by male combat veterans...the same macho men that assaulted her in the first place.
Sending a female rape victim into a room full of males for PTSD group therapy might be compared to sending the male Vietnam combat veteran into a room full of NVA regulars for his therapy. It may seem expedient and cost effective to some administrator who is watching the budget but it's only more trouble for the future. It just doesn't make sense.
It's time that our VHA got serious about the existing female rape victims. Let's stop using "MST" and call it what it is...an ugly crime perpetrated by thugs and sanctioned by our DOD. Let's set aside whatever resources are required to help these women to return to as normal a life as they can after the violence that's been put upon them.
Then...let's make it clear to DOD that this isn't acceptable. Unless we want to operate like a Taliban society where women are 3rd class citizens, DOD must put a halt to all such activity and if it happens, the guilty ones should pay dearly for their crimes.
Finally...if you believe the above was ugly and distasteful, wait for it. I'll tell you of the numerous rapes of male soldiers by other male soldiers that I know of.
MST? You bet your life...and it isn't just another isolated incident.
(Are you a female military rape victim? Want to talk about it to another one in confidence? Send an email to email@example.com for more info.)