I was speaking to a veteran yesterday and he was explaining how his conversation had gone with his DVA officer-this conversation was about the veterans claim for post traumatic stress and directly connected with MST. I could not help to remember my first meeting with a public paid DVA officer in my home county. The man had no clue any more than a rock would have about what I was telling him!

I sat across from a former Marine. The office walls behind his desk were crowded with decorations from active military duty and Congressional awards because of his dedication to US Military veterans.

I have no doubt of this mans experience and success in aiding disabled veterans filing claims. He just had limited experience only capable of understanding the needs of a veteran that has legitimate injuries…as for this desk Marine-he lacked understanding!

No-there are no legitimate injuries! But speaking to this particular former Marine he would have never been able to accept the fact that ‘military sexual trauma’ exists in his military! He made jokes, his staff made jokes-there was no seriousness taken in what I had opened up to tell him.

The VA mental health clinic had made the suggestion to report my rapes to the DVA for validation. What happened at the DVA office was unacceptable for any survivor.

So when the veteran was talking yesterday my mind kept drifting into my local DVA office and getting a visual of whom my friend was trying tell his story to in his home area. This has been what I have felt is insensitive treatment to this type of claim and to expect any sexual trauma survivor (we actually just limp along) to go to ‘any ol’ Joe’ to fill in the details of the criminal act of rape!

This is re-traumatising…and this is not right!

Honestly my friend was not complaining but you could sense the reserve in his voice as “what are you going to do”? but it isn’t just him or me alone, it is the countless silent wounded who have  the same concerns-after all, this is not an injury one easily speaks to anyone about-especially if ever trying to report the crime in the first place and being told to “snuff it up” or “not in my battalion”! From the moment of the attack the victims self-esteem is shoved into the dirt…it keeps on being pushed into the dirt from then on! So-who is welcoming going into the office of the local DVA and follow VA procedure on filing PTSD disability claims?

There needs to be a more sensitive solution to ease the burden of filing a claim for post traumatic stress when the filer is a survivor of MST! We shouldn’t have reason to file at all-sexual trauma is not how the enlisted person expects to be injured and no one expected to gain a lifetime of suffering-silently! We stood up to defend our flag and our national security-and we are veterans, but it is not the same sense of being a veteran who can speak proudly of their service-because there is a very black and missing piece that cannot be told! I know this is so because I can never erase that I spent time in the military-and wish that I could erase all of it-but in fact, it comes up in conversations here and there and especially in unexpected moments. I have to leave the blank every time and so often I am so ashamed. And, I am not the one who should be ashamed! I am a veteran from a war-time and I enlisted months before my legal age… I should have a different story to tell. All of us should!

But-what troubles me is when we do want to talk about our military life, and what happened, when will there be someone the veteran can feel confident the person they are telling this history to is quailified to understand the trauma?

Peace

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One Response to “”

  1. Joan Says:

    Jay – you are so right! I fight this daily – working closely with my Veteran Service Organization – to help them understand that a wounded Veteran is a wounded Veteran. It doesn’t matter if they were wounded in combat, wounded stateside or wounded because of MST – they are still wounded! At the same time I never come out and say that I have PTSD due to MST. I just can’t bring myself to tell them the truth, because I am not sure what bothers me more…their look of sympathy – or their look of disbelief. I was talking to a District officer about an upcoming meeting and he wanted biographical information…I told him I am a “disabled vet” and his first response way, “Wow – how were you disabled?” I immediately mentioned a vehicle accident and left it at that. At the same time I fight for the survivors as “Joan” – I am ashamed to fight for myself as myself. “Joan” gives a voice to the unspeakable.

    At our upcoming conference I will be on the podium speaking about Women Veterans and the needs of MST Survivors (Male and Female) and how our VSO can do better. My end goal is for every Service Officer and Post in the state to have some sort of training about Military Sexual Trauma and to show them that if there are 10 Males in the room – there is AT LEAST one survivor. This isn’t rare and it isn’t unique and we shouldn’t have to be ashamed – but we are.

    If there is one thing I would give my life to change it would be the shame that we survivors feel. But I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

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