When women Veterans experience harassment at VA facilities, it can affect their health.
A national survey of more than 1,300 randomly selected women Veterans at 12 different VA facilities found that one in four of them reported inappropriate or unwanted comments or behavior by male Veterans on VA grounds.
Women who reported harassment were significantly more likely to report feeling unwelcome at VA, feeling unsafe, and delaying or missing medical appointments. Harassment is also known to potentially trigger mental health symptoms in those who experience harassment.
VA will not accept harassment of any kind, at any facility
This month, we are rolling out a new campaign at VA health care facilities to remind everyone – patients, providers, and staff – that VA has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment.
VA has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment.
These reminders will meet Veterans where the negative behavior may be happening: in hallways, waiting rooms, public areas, and parking lots of VA facilities.
All Veterans, their families, caregivers, survivors, VA staff, visitors and advocates deserve to feel safe and welcome at VA. This means we will not tolerate or accept harassment of any kind, in any facility.
If a comment or behavior makes someone else feel uncomfortable or unsafe, that is considered harassment.
Examples of harassment include:
- Commenting on someone’s body, clothing, or the way they look, even if it is meant to be a compliment, such as “You’re so pretty.”
- Staring, leering, or ogling at someone.
- Telling a stranger to smile or come sit by you.
- Telling someone they are too pretty to be a Veteran.
- Taking an unauthorized picture of a stranger in a VA facility (for example, with a smart phone) or approaching someone you don’t know and asking to take a picture.
- Catcalling, whistling, or openly making comments like “Are you single?”
- Following or cornering someone.
- Calling someone an unwelcome name, like baby, honey, or sweetheart.
Ensuring that VA is a safe and comfortable place
We are all accountable for the culture at VA. Fellow Veterans and VA providers and staff must work together to ensure everyone feels that VA is a safe and comfortable place to receive health care and to work.
Most Veterans do not harass others and often step in to help out a fellow Veteran. However, it only takes one inappropriate comment or action to make someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
If you experience harassment, you do not need to put up with it. And if you see harassment, it’s your option to report it immediately.
Tell VA police, security, facility leadership, a Women Veteran Program Manager, the Women Veteran’s Call Center (1-855-829-6636) or a patient advocate if you see or experience harassment at VA.
Dr. Patricia Hayes is the VA Chief Officer for Women’s Health.