Valley Veteran Details Experience with Military Sexual Trauma
LOS FRESNOS – In the U.S. military, the #MeToo movement is opening up a conversation about those who were sexually assaulted while in the service.
The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that more than a quarter of all female service members experience military sexual trauma or MST.
VA specialists say MST can have negative consequences on a person’s life, much like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Today, a local veteran is opening up about surviving MST.
"Nobody talks about it," breaking her silence, veteran Josie Cammack spoke with CHANNEL 5 NEWS.
"You go into the service expecting to serve your country, doing your job, standing tall and proud and representing an organization. But unfortunately these things happen," says Cammack. "It’s not your fault. First and foremost, it’s not your fault."
Serving on a U.S. Navy ship overseas, Cammack was only a teenager and in Japan.
"The action of someone coming and attacking me. My personal space. Taking away my feeling safe or feeling, I always thought I was a strong person," tears in her eyes, Cammack explains that for a long time she bottled up the hurt. She says she was sexually abused while in the service.
"You live with that, it does affect you. You become more withdrawn from interaction with people. You don’t like to be around crowded spaces. You don’t like to be touched. You don’t want people to hug you, be near you," recalls Cammack.
She sought help through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"Just like any trauma, there’s a stigma associated with it," explains MST Coordinator Melica Wiley, based in Corpus Christi.
Wiley tells CHANNEL 5 NEWS that MST is any unwanted sexual advances or harassment that a service member experiences while enrolled in the forces. She says perpetrators can be another service member, a commanding officer, a peer or a civilian.
"Threatened or pressured into sexual activity, such as threats of promises for better duty assignments. Sexual contact against their will if they are asleep or intoxicated," are just some of the examples of MST that Wiley describes.
Wiley says MST happens to both women and men.
"For men, we have to take into account a lot of men don’t feel comfortable reporting," says Wiley, "They also deal with a lot of anger, shame, guilt, confusion over why did this happen, sleep problems, masculinity worries and relationship problems as well."
According to the VA, 27 percent of all female veterans report MST during outpatient care.
Ultimately, this leaves thousands of service members to face what Wiley describes as emotional and physical consequences that can impact their lives.
"It’s OK to speak up, to express how you feel," said Cammack. "Yes, it is sad. It is unfortunate that it happened. It’s going to be OK. It’s something you get through, you just have to be patient, cause it doesn’t happen overnight."
Cammack says she’s still proud of her service to the country.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has many programs to help service members who experience MST. Wiley says you can contact your VA Healthcare Provider or contact her at 361-939-6513.
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