VA highlighting ways to help MST survivors during Sexual Assault Awareness Month
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.
Thus far, 18 people have completed Shields & Stripes, which tries to rehabilitate those battling mental health conditions such as PTSD, major depression and anxiety disorder. Shields & Stripes can also work with people who have experienced mild traumatic brain injury, which is essentially a concussion and a frequent injury from the post-9/11 conflicts, and moral injury, which is a conflict with one’s personal code of morality.
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