Female Veterans Struggling With PTSD From Sexual Abuse
Female veterans are fighting another fight, a battle to get treatment for post traumatic stress after suffering sexual abuse in the military.
[su_center_ad]Thousands of female veterans are struggling to get health-care treatment and compensation [su_thin_right_skyscraper_ad]from the Department of Veterans Affairs on the grounds that they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder caused by sexual trauma in the military. The veterans and their advocates call it “the second battle” — with a bureaucracy they say is stuck in the past.
Judy Atwood-Bell was just a 19-year-old Army private when she says she was locked inside a barracks room at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, forced to the cold floor and raped by a fellow solider.
For more than two decades, Atwood-Bell fought for an apology and financial compensation from VA for PTSD, with panic attacks, insomnia and severe depression that she recalls started soon after that winter day in 1981. She filled out stacks of forms in triplicate and then filled them out again, pressing over and over for recognition of the harm that was done.
The department labels it “military sexual trauma” (MST), covering any unwanted contact, including sexual innuendo, groping and rape.
A recent VA survey found that 1 in 4 women said they experienced sexual harassment or assault. And the problem is growing more pressing because female veterans represent the military’s fastest-growing population, with an estimated 2.2 million, or 10 percent, of the country’s veterans. More than 280,000 female veterans have returned home from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Just the other day Atwood discovered her claim had been accepted. It took 20 years.