the conference-attended!

the hall to the banquet room

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

As I had written the previous post-I attended the ‘sexual battery’ conference in Gainesville.
I was not too sure if I was going to attend-my anxiety of crowds and large places was paramount….but afterwards I am glad that I got through it.
The conference was held in a church. The church was large as any small college-actually,I never even saw the ‘sanctuary’ because the campus was that large.
The only seminar I intended to sit in was presented by two doctors from the Gainesville Florida Veterans Administration Hospital. The topic-Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

The VA doctors were’nt expecting me.
They showed a slide presentation to enhance their points-the points of self praise in how good a job they are doing.
I could not help to get stirred up when the speaker said that they were going to concentrate on female victims as the number of male victims was in a lower percentage and was insignificant.
They showed a figure of 2%….I offered a figure of 6% in which the speaker counter reacted with these are VA numbers….which I counter reacted with “so are mine,and since your numbers are from 2002 and mine 2006-my numbers were more up to date”.
I expressed that a difference of 4% may not seem significant…but is very significant.
To say it best-the VA doctors presented a sexually biased presentation-completely leaving male victims out of the picture as if we hardly even made a difference.
And…they insisted the health care in supporting survivors was upper scale-I only wished I could have asked how completely severing survivors from the only one they had come to trust-our therapist,was good health care?
And,again we were treated to a ‘wag of the dog’ by them saying the newer facilities they had moved into was proof they were doing a good job.
They failed to mention almost every department in the VA is being moved to outside locations to make room for the additional construction that is going to be underway at the VA Hospital….not a sign of improvement-a sign the problems are growing with the return of Iraq wounded and Afghanistan wounded.

I proudly stood up for other veterans who survive the silent wounds that they received while in military service-the wounds of rape and personal violation to ones body….I stood up and said I was a survivor of MST to a room full of twenty or more persons-strangers to me,a mix of professionals from law enforcement to doctors to mental health care practitioners.
I stood up and refuted the numbers and asked the doctors what the VA was doing to prepare for the fall out from the military enlisting over 100,000 convicted felons and how they were planning on dealing with the down hill effect that will have when these felons (among them over 4000 sexual offenders) commit a crime while in service-for example,repeat offenses in sexual misbehavior are very possible and should be expected.
There was no answer.

I know my questions and remarks were well accepted by the rest of the audience-several came up to me afterwards and told me so.
It was too easy to see how generic and UN-informative the VA presentation was. Something straight out of elementary school.
I cannot believe intelligent people bought very much of it-the slides were old…and as I said,so were the numbers. And worse-the suggestion that the ‘male numbers’ were insignificant was insulting.

The morning began at a breakfast with a keynote speaker. Although the speaker is telling her story of survival across the state-I wish to respect her privacy and not say much about the crime she endured.
I do need to say-the hours she spent being victimized made my two months in barracks D seem easier to accept….but they were words of a survivor that said the same thing I have said all along-I will never forget the incident. This woman was blinded by her attacker…she lost so much,but yet turned around with it and is now a deputy director of the Division of Victim Services for the Office of the Attorney General in the State of Florida.
A survivor who took the crime against her and turned it into a full time job as an advocate for others.

The moment I heard her speak I knew that I had found someone who could help me find the way to reach those in powerful places-like the state senate….to edify those in charge of laws ans systems that there is a problem with in the Veterans Affairs officers who no training in ‘sexual assault’ cases. I expressed to the deputy director that we need to provide survivor’s of MST a sensitive and trained individual for the MST survivor to be able to assist the survivor in processing a claim for compensation for the damages done while being victimized at the hands of those who are in the same ranks as the victim.

I felt like an angel from heaven has coordinated my going to the conference-for these past years of writing these installments of my personal account of being a survivor is so I can reach those who can make a difference in the survivors future…and by being handed this one survivors business card has said there is value in patience and faith,and I know there is soon to be a newer level to my activism for veterans-survivors of Military Sexual Trauma.

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