You may know April for World Autism Month, Mathematics and Statistics Month or National Volunteer Month. But, it wasn’t until April 1, 2001, when the United States observed its first Sexual Assault Awareness Month. While you may have known that, did you know that each year the National Sexual Violence Resource Center chooses a focused theme to make everyone aware of the prevention of sexual assault?  Their 2017 theme is “Engaging New Voices” which brings to the forefront that the whole community and world must have their eyes open to sexual assaults, illegal trafficking, and other such crimes.

In the wake of much publicized news, the Marine Corps recently published new guidelines for active duty Marines on social media, while news of possible criminal impact to University of Pennsylvania staff surrounding the guilty charges of Jerry Sandusky have made the front page of our newspapers. It is everyone’s mission to be engaged and if they see something, they must say something. Silence cannot be an option.

Every year, VA also chooses a national theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month and engages in activities to raise awareness of sexual assault, with a particular focus on sexual assault and sexual harassment occurring during military service – also known as “military sexual trauma” or MST.  The national 2017 theme dovetails nicely with VA’s 2017 theme of “Standing Together to Empower Military Sexual Trauma Survivors.”

Consistent with both these themes, the Center for Women Veterans and VA Mental Health Services will use this blog to partner during April to share how VA is engaging new voices and standing together to empower MST survivors.  We’ll be highlighting weekly this month some of the tremendous events and campaigns across the nation facilitated by the MST coordinators at each of their local facilities.  It’s still early in the month but we already have a few events to highlight: an informational outreach event at VA Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System and an equine assisted therapy event from the Saginaw VA Medical Center.

Speaking up – making sexual assault, which is too often invisible, visible – is a key element of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  On that note, recently I was awake in the early morning and heard this public service announcement — When We Were Young  — of a woman Veteran speaking with her younger self.

It touched my soul, because we may never see the struggles our friends, family and fellow citizens may be experiencing.

There’s also this video, Strength Over Silence.

I challenge you to watch these impactful short announcements and share it with others.  There is help, and those that need it may only benefit if we all engage new voices.

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Published on Apr. 19, 2017

Estimated reading time is 2.2 min.

Views to date: 156


  1. Elisabeth Howell May 4, 2017 at 8:40 am

    It’s lovely that the VA is finally even acknowledging military sexual trauma – let’s call it what it is, though; rape. Sexual assault, often by our own comrades at arms with whom we were forced to continue to work, sometimes for years, while also listening to an endless litany of “you don’t want to ruin that young man’s life, do you?” “it’s probably a misunderstanding” – or worse, risk straight up losing our own careers if we speak up at all. “Doing” something about it implies you have some verbs in mind, hopefully besides ignoring the problem. For those of us who survived our military career and it’s many sexually violent experiences, and who still deal with the PTSD, and physical injuries, it seems a long damned time to wait for the VA do actually do something to help us. A friendly encouraging blog post isn’t doing anything about it at all.

  2. Debbie Jane April 26, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    So what is being done exactly? People get referred to the correct counselor? I’ve asked about MST retreats and I hear they are in the works. Most of the events or places to go are on the east coast. What if you live in Washington or Oregon where the population is smaller? I think a retreat or rehab center where females and as well as confidential center for men to reach out to would be helpful. I hear there is a drug rehab located in southern Oregon. My vote would be a place along southern coast in Oregon. Just my opinion. There is alot of publicity for women vets, MST etc. But what is the action to follow? DJM

  3. Procter Bill Porter jr April 22, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I as Sexually and Physically abused as well from 12/04/1972 until graduation on 3/7/1973 by my head drill Ssgt at MCRD San Diego California! He was ‘ Finally arrested and lead away in cuffs by the Mp’s …I was told to say ‘ Nothing! I tried to tell my Lt but he told me to get back to my barracks! Ive seen alot of physiciatrists and they all say the Corps messed me up bad..I have PTSD and other things wrong with me i take meds for .It’s ruined two marriages , and my whhole life!! I tried filing a Fully Developed Claim and was turned down! I filed ‘ intent of review last August! Please if anyone’s reading this can help me please, please do! Thank you and God bless..PBP.

  4. Heather Harris April 21, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Don’t feel alone, I went through years of sexual harassment and being told that no one would believe me if tried to tell anyone because I was a Private and the offenders were senior NCO’s and officers. I was told that I wouldn’t be promoted unless I “put out” (I never did and I WAS promoted).
    After an Article 32, the CO was relieved of command, the platoon leader was given a “rehabilitative transfer” and the First Sergeant was forced to retire with 28 years of service. I was transferred to another company where the sexual harassment was WORSE and ended up gang-raped and pregnant.
    I got an abortion at the Philadelphia Naval Hospital in October 1975.
    Don’t give up!! Talk to other servicewomen who have been down the same road. You are not alone!

  5. P. Jackson April 21, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    What do you do when you tell someone your story but nothing never happens the whole time that you have been seeing a counselor. But when they retired are move on and that’s the end of your case and you feel all alone again because no one seem to care how I feel at this time.

  6. Kerri J Fontz April 21, 2017 at 11:24 am

    As a victim I am delighted to see these changes taking place. As a female serving in the Army I was attacked and sworn to that if I told it would be worse next time. I asked my first sergeant to move out of the barracks shortly afterwards. He approved the move and I found out I was pregnant. My daughter’s(twins) are beautiful young ladies who have no idea that I’ve lied to them all these years. No one can understand what it’s like for me and it’s hard to share. Keep America’s female soldiers safe please?

    • Deb April 27, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      I, too, have a daughter drom an assault while in the Army. Unfortunately, she knows and life jas been hard. I understand the struggles-first hand.

    • Joseph Davis April 29, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      To ALL veterans and Active Duty persons. DO NOT report assaults to the chain of command first. Report it to your Criminal Investigative Division, NIS first. I had a similar incident involving my spouse. She was sexually assaulted while a patient in a medical ward aboard a Naval Vessel. It has been some years and every year around the same time she has flashbacks. The VA is really NO help. She is at risk and I’m almost afraid to leave her home alone. Prayer CHANGES THINGS. Keep prayerful and seek help. It is unfortunate that those in command above us only are concerned about their promotions. Reporting this type of incident is career damaging/ending for them. I guess it will only come to light when the same happens to someone close or dear to them (God Forbid)

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