June 13, 2019

Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!

Five coworkers of different races, genders, and ages looking at screen togetherOur new online Continuing Education Center is open, and the first course is live. It’s our exciting new interactive Warrior Stories training.

Online training is not just another thing we’re doing – it’s fundamental. We have always tried to hold a number of trainings every year – to share what we know, and empower others. But we’re a small shop. Maybe so are you. And even in our largest military establishments, or in a major medical center, the number of people in a specific area, and the resources available vs. the work to be done, can be dauntingly not enough. Continue reading “Pack Your Bags. No, Wait, It’s Online Now!”

April 11, 2019

Art + Narrative Therapy for PTSD – There’s An App for That!

Panels created in the Warrior Stories appA person who has been sexually assaulted often finds the experience difficult to talk about, for many reasons. There are feelings of shame and self-blame associated with the assault. But studies suggest that not talking may be ok as long as the traumatic memories are addressed through nonverbal treatment.

Art therapy is a way to tap into such memories, as they may be better accessed by sensory means. It is often combined with narrative therapy, which allows someone to express their story and see the problems in it as separate from themselves, making them easier to work through.

The Defense Department-sponsored Warrior Stories app was designed for processing combat trauma. Continue reading “Art + Narrative Therapy for PTSD – There’s An App for That!”

March 14, 2019

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”

February 12, 2019

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”

November 28, 2018

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”

October 30, 2018

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?”

September 19, 2018

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”

August 24, 2018

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”

April 30, 2018

Why We Started: Our Story of Impacting Survivors

Shot from above of sneakers next to Passion Led Us Here on sidewalkSeven years ago, started what would impact thousands of MST survivors. We conducted military culture trainings for civilian clinicians around Illinois with the goal of getting them to sign up as volunteers or with Tricare. We wanted to increase the network of behavioral health providers in our state willing to work with veterans.

A new documentary came out called “The Invisible War.” The documentary was about military sexual assault. Thinking the film seemed interesting, we considered screening the movie and moderating a discussion.

Wanting to get the military’s take on the matter, we asked a colleague if he had seen it. Continue reading “Why We Started: Our Story of Impacting Survivors”

April 13, 2018

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”

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