Bringing MST home, to Congress

Sen. Martha McSally visiting women of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia in 2015Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona captured the attention of Congress, and of the nation, last week when she revealed in a hearing that she had been raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. It was a top story from NPR to Fox News.

“Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor,” she told the witnesses at a hearing of Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, of which she is a member, on March 6th. She did not report the incidents, she testified, because she was ashamed and confused, and in later attempts to talk to Air Force officials about them felt “like the system was raping me all over again.” Continue reading “Bringing MST home, to Congress”

A Vision: Proper Care for Women Vets

Young African-American woman talking on her cell phone - perhaps with her healthcare providerWhen a woman goes to the doctor, or to a clinic, intake typically fails to ask her if she is veteran or an active member of the Armed Forces. Screening for military status is a way to obtain a vast amount of information. Failing to screen leads to poor health outcomes, because providers miss the fact that service heightens the likelihood of certain kinds of injury, stress, trauma, and other health conditions.

We envision: healthcare systems that routinely identify female veterans at 100% of all screenings and use this information to guide appropriate treatment.

Women who serve have needs for gender-specific care that many healthcare facilities are not able to provide. The deficiency lies in both lack of scientific knowledge of battlefield injury and trauma-informed care, as well as an absence of awareness of military culture and how it relates to health and well-being. Continue reading “A Vision: Proper Care for Women Vets”

Challenge prejudice, change minds

Photo of an angry man“These women are hurting my soldiers’ careers. You’re wasting OUR time.” A major lambasted me during a training’s break. He continued: “My soldiers would never do that. Can we get back to our real work.” Although worded like a question, his last sentence spewed at me with such authoritative, deep guttural tones, that I clearly knew he meant it as a command.

Here I was, my very first training working with military victim advocates. Green as can be and the highest-ranking figure in the course commanding me to release the class. Of course, I couldn’t dismiss the class; and he technically didn’t have any authority over the matter. Continue reading “Challenge prejudice, change minds”

Would You Wait Three Decades?

Hands reaching out toward womanWhether you wait three hours or three decades, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Politics aside, the media and others should be incredibly ashamed of their behavior.

The reckless victim-blaming appalled me.

In no case have I ever seen one’s unwillingness to come forward affect one’s credibility. Continue reading “Would You Wait Three Decades?”

Sexual Assault: A Community’s Responsibility

Mural of womanOnce at a high school track meet, a boy grabbed my butt. Before I could do anything, he scurried back to his group of male friends where they proceeded to point and laugh at me.

Later I told my mother what happened. She shared with me that a similar thing had happened to her when she was my age. It was comforting knowing that I was not alone. But it was frustrating knowing that my experience, like hers, would most likely not be addressed or taken seriously by any authority figure. Continue reading “Sexual Assault: A Community’s Responsibility”

VA Wrongly Denies MST Claims

Logos of the VA and VA OIGWe were distraught and disheartened – but sadly, not surprised – by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General report released Tuesday, which found that nearly half of the denied claims related to military sexual trauma were denied due to improper processing.

Wrongly denying services for MST is life-threatening. It is hard enough for a survivor to trust someone enough to disclose their experience in the first place – let alone go through this challenging process of applying for benefits only to be turned away. Continue reading “VA Wrongly Denies MST Claims”

How a Commander Learned to Support Survivors

Baptism by fire is how I would describe my early career as a junior officer in the Armed Forces. (This post is in the words of an anonymous commander.) During that time, sexual assault and harassment was a foreign term to me in the context of the military. I never thought twice about being alone in the woods or in close quarters with another soldier regardless of how long I knew that person. Maybe I was naïve, but the thought never crossed my mind that threats could also exist within. Make no mistake, I knew these atrocities existed in my world but to me they were few and far between and how they were addressed was outside of my pay grade. When I became Company Commander my level of responsibility drastically changed. Continue reading “How a Commander Learned to Support Survivors”

Have You Done Enough to End Rape?

Reaching outIn case you don’t know how to end rape, a quick online search brings forward dozens of three-point steps to ending rape culture, stopping rape on campuses, and empowering women. “Make it a man’s problem,” “Promote Enthusiastic Consent,” or “don’t raise your boys to be ‘tough. ‘ ” My sarcastic self wondered, “How about ‘Don’t do it’?”

The best answer is, “tell your story.” Look, stories are how we convince people. We aren’t convinced by statistics. Continue reading “Have You Done Enough to End Rape?”

The Executive Order and Veteran Suicide

President Trump signs executive order to improve mental health services for veteransOn January 9, President Trump signed an executive order expanding access to mental health care for Veterans as they transition out of military service. The details of this move are not finalized, but it will include allowing access to Military OneSource for 12 months.

For those who think that transitioning Veterans are not eligible for mental health care currently – let me assure you that is not the case. However it can be confusing. Once a Veteran is discharged from the service they can apply for disability benefits at the VA, but most will wait an extended period of time before their applications are approved. Continue reading “The Executive Order and Veteran Suicide”

Understanding Moral Injury

Cartoon explaining moral injurySometimes, the most difficult injury from which to recover is living with one’s memories.

A moral injury is defined as an injury to a person’s moral conscience based upon the act of perceived moral transgression which creates deep emotional pain. The catalyst is often acts of omission or commission, and the resulting trauma impacts one’s psyche due to personal cultural and spiritual values placed on those acts. In the most basic terms, the veteran feels crippling guilt. Continue reading “Understanding Moral Injury”

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