The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs calls MST — military sexual trauma — an epidemic. It affects women disproportionately — one out of five, compared with one out of 100 men. It can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, and hypertension, according to a very well-reported article by Jan Brogan on BostonGlobe.com. Experiencing sexual abuse in the military, and then figuring out what to do about it is difficult.
Within the military, a victim of sexual trauma not only knows the perpetrator, but is often dependent on him, says Dr. Dana Weaver, chief of mental health services and the MST coordinator for the VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System. Aside from the difficulty of escaping repeated advances in a small unit, there is the issue of unit cohesion. “In the combat zone, there is a sense of shared mission. The safety of the unit is paramount,” she says.
This leaves the victim with an intense sense of betrayal, but also shame, and reluctance to do anything that would negatively impact the unit, Weaver says. “They feel both an internal and external pressure not to report.”
The article provides stories about women who have come forward to talk about their experiences, the resources available and provides useful links.
PROJECT LAUNCH, a federally-funded program that promotes wellness of children from birth to eight years old, hosted a series of workshops in Saginaw schools last week, according to an article on mlive.com. The speaker, John Micsak, founder of the National Institute for Resiliency and Wellness, talked trauma with the kids:
“Trauma informed care is a crucial and vital need in the Saginaw community. In speaking with the young people, it was quite startling to see how many children and adolescents are carrying the burden of traumatic stress,” Micsak said.
“When I asked the question, ‘how many of you have lost a family member or loved one due to an act of violence,’ the majority of hands went up whether I was with the young men and women at the detention center or the fifth grade students at Houghton Elementary School.”
He also showed one class how to turn their blues around by getting up and dancing, then doing breathing and mindfulness exercises. He was disappointed that community leaders did not attend a workshop for adults.
What’s interesting about this is that this community is finding ways to talk openly about trauma, especially with children. As every program that’s undertaken talking about trauma with children or adults, the only people who are terrified of doing so seem to be the program managers. Of course, there are a few people who don’t want to discuss trauma, but they’re open about that, too. And making sure to pair trauma-talk with resilience practices seems even better. I’ll call these folks to find out more about it.
FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR Ed Koch wrote a long op-ed on Newsmax.com about the controversy in Brooklyn, where Hasidic Jews apparently have been able to hide decades of child abuse. Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes apparently has been treating them preferentially, particularly in child abuse cases, according to articles in the New York Times last week. The first article, Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse, appeared last Wednesday. For Ultra-Orthodox in Abuse Cases, Prosecutor Has Different Rules appeared on Friday.
Koch ended his op-ed by calling for Hynes to begin treating the cases like any other, or have someone else take over:
At this point, unless District Attorney Hynes announces that he will release the names of all defendants, including those of ultra-orthodox Jews charged with child abuse — sexual or otherwise — and will pursue criminally anyone who engages in obstruction of justice, advising someone not to assist the police in their investigation of a child abuse incident, the governor should supersede him in these cases and appoint a special prosecutor to handle them.