Harassment is personal. It may seem too personal and scary to trust anyone. But VA wants to be a trusted resource for Veterans who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, or intimate partner violence (IPV).

In VA health care settings and communities across the country, people are taking the White Ribbon VA call to action to end violence against women and girls, and to promote gender equity, healthy relationships and a new vision of masculinity.

The campaign also seeks to provide resources for those who are or have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) and to help them tell their stories.

Suffered in silence for years

Veronika Mudra, co-founder of White Ribbon USA, emphasizes the need to speak up and reach out. Mudra personally knows about IPV. She and her son emigrated from the Ukraine six years ago after receiving asylum in the US due to IPV. For years she suffered in silence, living with fear, worried that if she spoke out, she would be further isolated.

VA’s white ribbon symbolizes and promotes a campaign of anti-violence against women.

When her ex-partner continued to threaten her and tried to take her son away, she realized she had to publicly tell her story. When she did, she found more support, resources, and people who were willing to help than she ever thought possible.

“I didn’t expect to get that much support. It gave me strength to keep on doing what I was doing. It was a turning point for me,” she said.

Intimate partner violence knows no borders

IPV can happen to anyone: women or men, in heterosexual or same-sex relationships, whether they live together or are sexually intimate. IPV can be ongoing from a past relationship. It can happen at the office or in “good homes.” And, as Mudra experienced, it knows no borders.

IPV has also become a shadow epidemic of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stress caused by the pandemic has raised the prevalence of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual violence and harassment within and outside the home.

Unfortunately, people who experience IPV often don’t seek help because they feel ashamed and embarrassed or are afraid to speak up. But they are not alone. About 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner.

Speak Up – You will get compassionate care

VA wants Veterans and their families to be able to speak up about IPV without fear – to know they will get compassionate care and access to the resources they need to address their physical and mental health needs.

Resources and support are available for those who have experienced or are currently experiencing IPV. If you want to know more, please visit our IPV Assistance site.

If you would like confidential help with your relationship, please contact your local Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program.

You can also talk with your primary care social worker or other provider and women Veterans can ask for the Women Veterans Program Manager or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233) 24/7.

Dr. Patricia Hayes is chief officer for Women’s Health at the Veterans Health Administration.

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Published on Feb. 5, 2021

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