Updated 05/30/2012 02:05 PM
Getting help for Military Sexual Trauma survivors
Sexual assault is one of the most under reported violent crimes in the U.S., and it's no different when it comes to Military Sexual Trauma, or MST. In 2011, there were more than 3,000 reports of MST across all branches of the military, but Department of Defense officials believe that likely only represents about 13 percent of actual sexual assaults. Our Katie Gibas spoke with an MST survivor who shares her experience and how getting help saved her life. She asked for her identity and voice to be changed for her protection.
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UNITED STATES -- "Dee" enlisted in the military just after she turned 18.
"I wanted to do something bigger than the town I was from. And my family has a rich history of people that are really respected that have been through the military and I decided I wanted to be a part of that," said “Dee,” Military Sexual Trauma survivor.
But things couldn't have turned out more differently. During basic training "Dee" was raped, attacked while doing laundry. And she isn't alone.
One in five women and one in 100 men report Military Sexual Trauma, or MST.
Last year, the Syracuse Veterans Affairs Medical Center screened more than 30,000 veterans who came in for care, and found at least 800 suffered from MST.
"People are reporting where they weren't before. It's hard to say whether it's actually increasing. We're just seeing increasing numbers of people reporting, which is good," said Jan Humphrey, Syracuse Vet Center Licensed social worker.
Because that means more people, like "Dee," are getting the help they need.
"I didn't press charges. And I didn't immediately get into the right kinds of help. I didn't really have any idea how much of a long-term effect that decision would have. I kind of waited until I was on the brink of suicide. I lost 15 years of my life to being a victim, to allowing myself to feel like that's who I was," said “Dee.”
"I do see veterans who have had Military Sexual Trauma who develop post-traumatic stress disorder, but it isn't always that they develop PTSD. Military Sexual Trauma can bring about a variety of difficulties, anxiety, depression, so it can definitely restrict their functioning and it can really interfere with their marriages, their whole life style really," said Janice Creamer, Syracuse VA Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator.
And "Dee" admits, working up the courage to get help wasn't easy.
"It sounds incredibly scary and it's hard work. But I'm here to say that I got my life back because of the two. Am I 100 percent better? No. I have bad days, but I know there's a place to go and a safety net for me when I do… This isn't something that you have to go at it alone and you shouldn't because when you realize that there's people out there who get it and who understand, it allows you to really start to work towards something else," said “Dee.”
And for "Dee," seeking treatment is the gift that gave her her life back.
"My kids and I, we go out and do things. They hear me laugh instead of cry. I cry at times, but the predominant thing is them seeing me be strong and capable and independent. I'm becoming me again, and it's awesome,” said “Dee.”