Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and the VA stands with you.
2016 Suicide Data Report
The Office of Suicide Prevention has released its 2016 National and State Suicide Data Reports, sharing new information about Veteran suicide.
Make the Connection
No matter what you may be experiencing, there is support for getting your life on a better track.
Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors
Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) is an annual campaign in April to raise public awareness about sexual assault. In its SAAM campaign, VA focuses in particular on sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring during military service – also known as “military sexual trauma” or “MST.” This year, VA’s national theme for SAAM activities is “Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors”.
Reflecting on the theme, Timiko Ilion, LPMHC, the MST Coordinator at the Jackson (MS) VA Medical Center, comments that it is about “people from all walks of life embracing one another and providing encouragement to all survivors of military sexual trauma….letting them know that they are not alone and that there is hope, strength, and solidarity for better days ahead.” Rebecca Robinson, LCSW, the MST Coordinator at the White River Junction VA Medical Center, notes that the theme reminds her of the work she does throughout the year to include survivors’ voices in any outreach or educational efforts she engages in. “Veterans in my groups offer thoughts that I subsequently read to the participants I’m presenting to. It gives survivors a chance to speak for themselves and advocate, and feel empowered to be part of our MST response in Vermont.”
In VA, Veterans who experienced MST have access to a wide range of services to assist them in their recovery. MST-related treatment is available at all VA medical facilities and all treatment for physical and mental health conditions related to experiences of MST is provided free of charge. Veterans may be eligible for free MST-related care even if they are not eligible for other VA services, and service connection (VA disability compensation) is not required. No documentation of MST experiences is required. In addition, every VA healthcare system has an MST Coordinator who serves as a contact person for MST-related issues at the facility and can help Veterans access relevant VA services and programs.
Sadly, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men seen for VA health care report a history of MST when screened by a VA provider. Although the percentage among women is much higher, given the far greater number of men in military service, there are significant numbers of both men and women who have experienced MST. In fact, over 40% of the Veterans seen in VA who disclose MST are men.
Because of this, MST Coordinators and other VA staff make special efforts during SAAM to show support for Veterans who experienced MST, by hosting awareness-raising and educational events. Also, VA’s Make the Connection website has video clips of Veterans sharing their stories of recovery, as a reminder that survivors are not alone in having experienced MST or in having the strength to recover.
For more information, Veterans can speak with a VA health care provider, contact the MST Coordinator at their nearest VA medical center, or contact their local Vet Center. A list of VA and Vet Center facilities can be found at www.va.gov. VA staff can find information on the VA intranet at http://vaww.mst.va.gov.