An Open Discussion Regarding Military Sexual Trauma
Most of the blogs I write are light-hearted and informative. However, there is something that has been on my mind a lot lately that I want to discuss. It’s no secret that Military Sexual Trauma affects many individuals who serve in the military. While I have blogged about this subject in the past, I did not have a one on one experience with many Veterans who were sexually assaulted in service. However, nearly a year ago my position in the firm changed. In my new position, I do what we refer to as Intake Appointments. In an Intake, I ask detailed questions about what a Veteran wants service-connected for, their treatment history, and their experience in the service. For a lot of the Vets I talk to, this is their first time talking with someone about their experience outside of medical professionals. We don’t take these conversations lightly, especially when it comes to MST. We know how difficult it can be for anyone to share an experience of sexual assault, especially someone who served in the military.
Normally in a given month, I may speak to one or two Veterans with MST claims. In a good month, I will talk with about 100 Vets regarding VA disability claims, so one or two MST cases only account for a very small percentage of my overall caseload. March was different. Specifically, the last two weeks of March were really surprising. Over a two week period of time, I talked to ten Veterans who experienced sexual assault and thus were filing military sexual trauma claims. In other words, 10% of my clients in March were affected by MST.
I take what I do very seriously. I have fun, but I state that there is no greater feeling in the world than meeting and interacting with Veterans. I honestly enjoy speaking with Vets about every aspect of service. I mostly enjoy hearing about the comradery and brotherhood most people who serve in the military develop with their fellow Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen and so on. I think this is why I am so stunned when I talk to any Veteran who is a victim of sexual assault, rape, or any other form of unwanted sexual attention.
So, why am I writing about my experience with these Vets? The answer is simple. I noticed something…no two stories were the same. I know MST is a big problem facing our military and many more vets are affected by MST who aren’t ready to come forward. So, my plan is to show how MST affects many different types of Veterans.
(I want to preface the rest of this blog by stating that I am not sharing any names, locations, or personal information about any of the Veterans I talked with over the past few weeks.)
There is still a stigma about MST even in 2015. One misconception is that only women get sexually assaulted or raped in service. That is simply not true. The 10 Veterans I talked to were all men. Now, some will state that the reason for this is that there are a lot more men in the military than women, and that skews that statistics, but I’m not here to discuss stats. The bottom line is that men and women are both assaulted far too often.
There is no specific type of Veteran that is affected by MST. I have talked to Veterans who served during peacetime who were assaulted as well as individuals who were deployed when it occurred. Some of the Veterans who file for MST are younger, others are older. Regardless, MST has been an issue for the military for a while. In my time with the firm I’ve talked to men who were assaulted in every era dating back to World War II.
Some may wonder why I am only discussing the men I deal with who are affected by MST. Simply, I do not often talk to women who were sexually assaulted in service. As a courtesy for our clients, I will talk to males who have MST cases, and my fellow Intake Specialist Shawna will speak with any woman filing for MST.
Another misconception about MST is that it has to be reported in order for you to get service-connected. That is not true. While reporting the assault will increase your chances of getting service-connected for MST, it is not definitive. There are other elements we can search for if we are representing you for your claim. This includes behavior changes, loss of rank, buddy statements, and even statements from your family or friends. Like everything else with VA disability treatment is essential. We strongly encourage you to seek at treatment at the VA or civilian doctors for cases involving MST.
Personally I could never imagine what it must be like to be assaulted by another individual. However, I understand that it is difficult to speak with others about this subject. I decided to ask one of the individuals I spoke with over the last few weeks what worked for him. He stated that the two things that helped him the most were group therapy with other male Vets who were sexually assaulted in service, and speaking with his wife about it. This will not work for everyone, but it works for him. I’m no psychologist, but I tend to pick up on a few things. I know that more often than not finding others with shared experiences can be helpful.
I want to end this on a positive note. I’ve been doing social media with the firm for over four years now. In 2015 we have more national media attention on MST, and the military is making big strides to reduce the number of sexual assaults. Last month I saw a video produced by the Army National Guard and the USMC regarding this subject and how to report it if it does occur.
If you would like to learn more about service connecting for MST, or if you’d like to set up a free consultation, give me a call today. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you are not available now but still want to talk with someone about your case, fill out this form, and we will give you a call back at a more desired time.