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Friday, June 20, 2008

Issue in Need of Attention

Sexual assault and rape aren’t new to the military. In fact, many women suffer in silence and never report their attackers. That isn’t the point of my post though. What I recently read is a tad concerning, but will hopefully be addressed with expedience and great care.

Medical News Today (20 Jun 2008) reported that, VA officials said that nearly one in five female veterans seeking care has been diagnosed with military sexual trauma; however, some believe the figure could be almost one in three.” One in five is a lot and one in three is downright frightening. Resources are out there though, what’s the concern, you may ask? Truth be told, the resources are limited. In fact, this is something I’ve been working on in the back of my mind and really hope to make something come to fruition in the not to far future. My concerns stem from personal experiences as well as a concern for the greater good. Any one interested in learning more about my intentions to this end is welcome to contact me.

The article also referenced that a quarter of a million (give or take) female veterans were treated at VA facilities last year alone, with the expectation that this number will only continue to rise. I’m sure that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to how many male vets are treated at these facilities, but still, one would imagine and hope that with the increase of need for treatment, more resources would be readily available. You know kind of something to do with the law of supply and demand. Oh wait, didn’t we hear about budget cuts and the VA being shortchanged not all that long ago?

The White House had published a succinct little fact sheet concerning the VA budget, but one might ask how much of this has and will realized. Read the FACT SHEET

In February 2008, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs discussed requirements for FY 09:

“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requires, at a minimum, $4.577 billion in additional funding in FY09 over FY08 to support its medical care operations. Our requested medical services increase is $2.562 billion over the Administration's request. The total required for all of VA's discretionary accounts is $6.614 billion over FY08.”

For a look at the full press release, please visit the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs site. It’s a lengthy but easy read. Let’s hope this budget, if not more, is approved and shall more than compensate for the shortfalls referenced in the aforementioned Medical News Today report.

I’m far from an expert on this subject and only know what I read and try to absorb from reports that come down the pike. Regardless, I’m a female veteran, so the matter hits close to home for me. Additionally, I’m largely concerned about veterans (regardless of gender) and the care they may or may not be getting. Still, this whole issue begs the question about PTSD. No, I’m not talking about PTSD as a direct result of combat. Rather, I’m concerned about the PTSD for the females who are assault and rape victims. I think that not many folks would consider this issue. We are so wrapped up in the combat end of things (a worthy concern, no doubt), that we may overlook the other causes for PTSD.

Last fall, a doctor writing for reported about this very concern of mine. Matthew Tull, PhD (26 Sep 2007) stated that:
“The experience of a sexual assault (ranging from unwanted sexual contact to rape) is also a widespread problem in the military (often referred to as military sexual trauma or MST). Studies indicate that around 23% to 33% of female veterans report experiencing a MST. In addition, there is some evidence that women who have experienced MST are at high risk for developing PTSD. One study found that approximately 42% of women who had experienced a MST also had PTSD as a result of the MST. Other studies have found that MST was more likely to lead to PTSD than other military or civilian traumatic events.”

PTSD or MST, whatever you want to call it, exists, and it’s not a new issue for concern. On a military discussion board I frequent someone took an anonymous poll last year about how many women were the victims of assault and/or rape (whether reported or not) and the numbers were staggering. I don’t have the poll in front of me, so I cannot say for certain what the actual figures were, but it was eye-opening. A great number of the responders were either female veterans or women currently on active duty.

There is good news though, well if you can consider anything in this subject matter good. Victims and PTSD/MST sufferers have help available to them. That is the counseling through the VA. This is why the funds need to increase because female vets and active duty women have few places to turn to for military sexual trauma issues. If the VA loses funding and can’t provide for these women, who can? Who will step up to the plate? If I had a billion, even a million, or just a few thousand dollars, oh what I would do. Of course, I don’t, but my wheels are in motion. I’m researching and looking at options. I urge any of you with thoughts on this, again, please contact me. One person can make a difference, two people and more can make an even bigger difference.


Anonymous said...

I am also a female veteran with PTSD. Mine was caused by sexual harassment that happened while I was serving a 3 year tour in Puerto Rico in the 80s. Puerto Rico assignments during the time I served 1983 to 1986 were considered to be "in theater" due to Grenada and due to the hostility from the locals. We often had base evacs, riots at the main gate, bomb threats and military persons were advised to not wear uniforms off base due to sniper attacks. We also weren't supposed to be seen off base in marked government vehicles. I worked as a combat journalist. And most of the time those orders that applied to others, weren't observed in my office.

We covered some of the worst stories of attacks and had to modify and soften them as not to alert the military population. We also had to use a local Puerto Rican publishing agency to edit and print our base paper. This meant several trips off base in uniform in a marked vehicle.

I was also the base community relations person and the only person in my office who spoke some Spanish. So I was the main contact sent out to make negotiations.

Many of the military women I had known had experienced so much sexual harassment because they decided to start their families and become pregnant. I'd say that the military women often had the most miscarriages (as many as 80 t0 90 percent due to hard working conditions, lack of compassion and limited duty requests being ignored).

I was only 22 at the time and married about 3 years before my pregnancy in 1984. I wasn't allowed to wear a maternity uniform or say I was pregnant until the baby's heart beat was heard. Until that point, I was treated as if I was just fat. I had my promotion with held for 6 months, sent to an exercise "fat farm" when 6 months along, measured for body fat, forced to shoot on the rifle range at 7 months and buffing floors at 8 months. The entire pregnancy was highly risky due to my high blood pressure, toxemia and blood clots.

Eleven days before delivery, I was assigned to do an inventory inspection for 3 hours in a room with no air conditioning. Temps were at least 100 degrees. I passed out from heat exhaustion and was carried out on a gurney then in an ambulance to the hospital. I was given absolute bed rest til my delivery.

My delivery was complicated and I had to be carefully watched during the hard labor due to my high blood pressure. The hospital staff had me pushing for 3 hours and the baby was turned the wrong way and he stopped breathing. The OB refused to do a C-section.

My son was ripped out of me with the use of high forceps and I was given heparin for the blood clots. The 15 hour ordeal left me so weak that I wasn't able to even hold my son for the first two days. My division officer came to my room after the birth and threw a fitness magazine at me then ordered me to get in shape for my next fitness test in 6 weeks. my leave was cut back to only 2 weeks.

Thanks to this ordeal, mo son was born autistic and with other birth defects. I was told that I could never have another pregnancy or else it would kill me. My blood pressure has remained high for the last 23 years.

The blood clot disorder continued and lead to my having five major surgeries from 2003 to 2005, I've had two failed kidney stents and lost the use of my right kidney. I've also had to have a greenfield filter implanted to try to prevent future clots. I'm on blood thinners for life now. And the final health issue I dealt with as a result of a traumatizing birth was that I had to endure a radical hysterectomy and a surgical induced menopause by the time I was 40.

My PTSD has worsened. The VA refuses to treat me at all now since my decline in health. So despite being 100% service connected; I have to pay for all private medical care and mental health therapy...just to keep living a limited life.

My physical and mental health have all been affected severely. It's left me terrified of any further complications and terrified of new doctors. I have constant panic attacks, crying spells to thee point of almost being frozen in fear, and have chronic insomnia.

All of these issues are directly attributed to my military experiences with the inhumane sexual discrimination I had while stationed in Puerto Rico. I've known many military women who've had far worse treatment.

I've never heard of or witnessed any man being treated so poorly. So how can it ever be possible that the VA (another man's world) can ever be prepared to treat female veterans??? They don't have a clue!!!

signed, another female victim of the "good ole boy" SYSTEM

Just a Girl in a Port said...

Anon., Thanks for your comment. Have you sought assistance/counseling for your PTSD?

I sincerely urge you to get with your local American Legion or VFW rep. They can offer you legal assistance and guidance when fighting battles with the VA. I hope you find peace in dealing with this horrible situation. It sounds like you have been through a horrific experience and no wors I can offer could erase that. I hope that you are able to get some assistance with the VA battle. Please take care.

Just a Girl in a Port said...

Anon., I also wanted to add that if you meet the criteria for your conditions, you may be elgible to receive SSDI. You may want to discuss that with an attorney to see if you qualify.

Unemployed Military Spouse said...


I'm so sorry to hear that. I'm a military spouse who's husband is stationed in Puerto Rico. I also experience sexual harassment while working in the military base. It seems this is a pretty common in this Island and the Higher Headquarters refuse to do anything to the perpetrators. It seems they are ok with people being sexually harassed. I have found many people going through this and nobody do anything!!

Just a Girl in a Port said...

Folks, I appreciate your comments. As you know this is a issue I am often thinking of. Today, I read a post over at that gave me some great contact information and resources for military women (past/present) who may need it.

Please be sure to read the blog:


And visit, "Stop Military Rape/Crisis Center":