Military Sex Abuse Victims Seek Help From VA

Posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2019 at 9:29 pm    

Sexual assault is an inescapable problem in the United States, including the Armed Forces. Societal attitudes and beliefs about sexual assault lead to acceptance and complacency of a “rape culture” in the United States where rape is exempted, tolerated, normalized, and even condoned. This belief of acceptance generates an environment that makes it virtually impossible for sexual assault victims, in both the armed forces and civilian systems, to achieve justice, and dissuades them from reporting and seeking help.

Sexual assault victims perpetrated by military service members are both men and women, it does not discriminate. However, of the women veterans who seek health care services from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 25% report experiencing at least one sexual assault while enrolled in the military, compared to the lesser 1% of male veterans. There is an increased risk of sexual assault against women who enter the military of enlisted rank, at younger ages, and even those who suffered sexual assault before entering the military. There are similarities in regard to reporting the abuse between victims of sexual assault inside the military, as well as on the outside. Feelings of shame, fear, and embarrassment often hinder a victim of sexual assault from reporting. However, less separation exists between a person’s private and professional life while enlisted in the military. These veteran victims fear that others inside will find out about their assault, and will be seen as weak and unable to accomplish the mission. Further, they fear that they will not be promoted and/or assigned to important jobs, or may lead to separation from the military for being such victims.

In the military, victims of sexual assault may make a “restricted report,” which allows disclosure to specific persons. For example, sexual assault victims may report to healthcare personnel, sexual assault prevention and response victim advocate (SAPR VA), or a sexual assault response coordinator (SARC). Fortunately, a victim can be assigned to a SARC or a SAPR VA in order to receive counseling and medical treatment, without sparking an official investigation. On the other hand, without requesting confidentiality, a victim may also make an unrestricted report. The difference being, when the victim makes such a report to SARC, command authorities or healthcare personnel, the incident is reported to law enforcement and is sometimes used to prompt an investigative process. Moreover, the alleged offender’s higher authority or commanding officer holds the power as to what action to commence when an unrestricted report is made. Such power determines whether legal, disciplinary, or administrative action will be taken against the alleged offender. Even more drastic, the higher authority may choose to separate the offender from the military administratively.

The belief that such offenders in the military are not held accountable for their actions often has the detrimental effect of excusing and condoning sexual assault in such an environment. Furthermore, by instilling such beliefs upon society, this “blind-eye” towards sexual assault in the military reinforces chauvinist mentalities and behavior toward women. The effect of sexual assault on victims in the military often lead to mental health issues, which cause the victims to be separated from the military. This separation can be perceived as retaliation for reporting the incident, which can lead to even bigger problems for the victims, i.e., their safety. Beyond terminating their position in the military, the effects of sexual assault can be crushing on one’s trust and well-being.

Similar to sexual assault victims in the civilian system, sexual assault survivors in the military also suffer long-term health and mental health consequences from the trauma. Every day becomes an inner battle with humiliation, self-reproach, anger, self-blame, and an inability to trust. Many victims suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, and mental health issues. Sexual assault victims often feel disconnected from society, which can lead to homelessness, unemployment, interference of interpersonal relationships, physical problems, and suicide. However, there are outlets that aim to help military sexual assault victims to guide them forward in their lives after the attack(s). The largest healthcare system in the country is the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Both male and female veterans are included within survivors of military sexual assault. Unfortunately, almost a quarter of the women veterans who seek healthcare from the VA report that they have experienced at least one sexual assault while active in the military.
Mental and medical healthcare links to supportive social work services for employment and housing counseling, and trauma-informed therapies are just a few of the services provided to survivors through the Veterans Affairs. Further, both the benefits of the VA-based services and community-based civilian services are accessible to women through the VA. For more trauma-informed care, it is encouraged to look toward community-based civilian services. While VA-based services are often viewed as being more sensitive to the particular needs of women veterans, they are not always comfortable approaching the VA for such services.
At Hach & Rose, our team will connect you with counselors and support to help you through the healing process, while also advocating on your behalf and confronting the powerful institutions that enabled these crimes to be committed. A proud addition to our firm, Stanley Spero, was recognized by SuperLawyers in 2018, and has been licensed in the profession of law since 1973. SuperLawyers is an exclusive list of top-rated attorneys in specific practice areas who were chosen after thorough evaluation of numerous criteria. Looking forward, Mr. Spero is committed to continue his current role of supporting and helping victims of professional exploitation.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, Hach & Rose’s team of zealous attorneys and counselors will guide you through the path to justice and healing. The trauma, pain, and suffering experienced by any sexual assault victim is profound, causing deep wounds of anger, betrayal, and violation, with lasting negative effects on one’s relationships, mental & physical health, and life. Do not hesitate to contact the New York sexual abuse lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP today at (212) 779-0057. Our compassionate, caring, and experienced attorneys will work diligently to uncover whether criminal charges, a civil lawsuit – or both – can be filed against the perpetrator or negligent third party who is responsible for the abuse and its damages to you.

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