Soldiers returning home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are expected to be affected by their experiences in combat and additional war-related incidents. What may not have been expected are the numbers of soldiers returning with stories of sexual abuse, as well as resulting trauma.
They might struggle with anxiety, embarrassment, fear and anger because of their experiences. The Veterans Administration is interested in assisting veterans who have experienced an assault or sexual trauma while serving America. Veterans, both men and women, who experience sexual trauma are eligible for disability compensation. The amount of compensation a veteran receives is determined based upon their particular experience, with a corresponding disability rating being assigned to them.
Sexual abuse and sexual trauma are not the same thing. Personal or sexual assaults are events of human design that threaten or inflict harm on another person. Sexual abuse is an act, while sexual trauma is the mental or physical disabilities which result from the abuse. Examples of abuse include rape, domestic battering, physical assault, and stalking. A number of veterans continue to suffer, even lengthy periods after the abuse happened, many times leaving them with emotional or psychological problems. In some instances, they may experience sexual dysfunction as well.
PTSD involves a form of recurrent emotional reaction to an event that is uncontrollable, terrifying, or even life-threatening. The symptoms of PTSD can develop immediately after the person experiences the event, or they may be delayed for years. People with PTSD can experience things such as sleep disturbances or nightmares, feelings of anxiety or fear, impaired concentration, and emotional instability. They may also have flashbacks, as well as problems with intimate and other interpersonal relations.
The year of 2006 found military personnel reporting almost three-thousand cases of sexual misconduct. Between 2005 and 2006, reports of sexual misconduct rose by nearly twenty-five percent. The year 2006 also found almost one point eight percent of men serving as active-duty troopers reporting incidents of undesired sexual contact - a number that translates into approximately twenty-two thousand men. This number only accounts for incidents which were actually reported; when compared to women in the military, men are far less-likely to report acts of sexual misconduct. Greater than eight-percent of women who have experienced sexual trauma while in the military report life-long PTSD as a result of their trauma. More than fifty-percent of all acts of sexual misconduct that has occurred in the military happened at a military base or site, or during hours of duty.
Sexual abuse leading to debilitating trauma is not limited to physical contact. Sexual harassment, verbal threats without actual contact, and advancements may lead to debilitating trauma as well. Sexual misconduct involving rape, assault or other forms of unwanted physical contact account for the majority of veterans' disability claims from soldiers and veterans.
There are a number of signs a soldier or veteran may show if they are suffering from sexual trauma. These signs include:
Experiencing upsetting flashbacks, nightmares, or memories of the abuse
Difficulty controlling emotions such as anger, sadness and/or irritation
Depression, guilt, inability to feel and/or feelings of numbness
New or increased drug and/or alcohol use and abuse
An inability to feel at ease, relaxed, or safe
Isolating themselves and avoiding others
Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
Changes in physical and mental health
An inability to function sexually
Veterans and Treatment of Sexual Trauma
There are a number of programs that are designed to assist veterans who are suffering from sexual trauma, although there are complications. One of the common problems for veterans with sexual trauma is the tendency to use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to escape their memories. Because of this, many veterans need treatment for drug and alcohol abuse as well as treatment for sexual trauma. Both of these issues need to be addressed at the same time in order to prevent one issue from causing the other to relapse.
Psychological counseling is the most common form of treatment for veterans who experience sexual trauma. Treatment for depression or PTSD is often involved. Treatment for these disabilities can take time, but can also be highly successful. For some veterans, these disabilities can only be managed, and result in long-lasting and permanent disability, requiring on-going treatment and assistance from a veterans' disability lawyer.
The Veterans Administration provides treatment and counseling to help both male and female veterans to overcome psychological trauma resulting from sexual trauma experienced while serving on active duty. Related services are also available in addition to counseling through VA medical facilities. Veterans receive care at no charge for conditions that are related to military sexual trauma. To find out more about these services, contact the Military Sexual Trauma Coordinator, or Women Veterans Program Manager at your local VA facility.
VA Disability Compensation
VA Disability Compensation is a monthly payment that is made to a veteran who is disabled by an injury or disease they incurred or aggravated while on active service. The veteran must have been discharged under other than dishonorable conditions in order to be eligible. The veteran also must currently be suffering from disabling symptoms to receive disability compensation. Veterans can apply for compensation by filling out VA Form 21-526, 'Veterans Application for Compensation or Pension.'
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