MST Veteran feels left out

Mary V. United States Army

In 2007 I was raped 6 months into my services with the Army. I reported the rape and my rapist were never prosecuted. Instead, I was viewed as being mentally unstable and as a result lost my career in 2008. In 2009 I enrolled in school to take advantage of the GI Bill and had a difficult time.

I attend a large state school. We have tens of thousands of students and we have a very active veterans organization. The first group on campus that I joined was the Veterans organization. I was treated with a cold shoulder yet still wanting to be accepted I will continue attending their meetings and events.

On Veterans’ Day we had a dinner event on campus. We were given stickers to wear for which conflict we were apart of. If you were never deployed you do not get a sticker. Each table was dedicated to each conflict. If you served in Iraq or Afghanistan you get the two best tables in the house up front. If you served in Vietnam you get the table right behind them. If you were never deployed you get to sit in the back behind the pole behind the professors, staff and others who may not be veterans.

I served a total of 11 months. When the Student Director of the Veterans’ Organization asked me how long I served he said “well you not really a veteran”. An assistant director said that I was “lucky to never have deployed” I wanted to tell them that I wanted to serve longer, that I enlisted with the desire to make it a career then I was raped and forced out but I could not tell them that. I rather have been deployed because I would be viewed as a hero and not a traitor for reporting rape.

It is hurtful when male student veterans won’t acknowledge what us women veterans may have gone through. Through my classes I met other women veteran who are not part of the veterans organization for reasons that they also feel left out.

During sexual assault awareness month I spoke to the veterans’ organization to have an event for military sexual trauma. They denied it and said that it was not “relevant to their mission” so I went to the counseling center and women center who was organizing various events on campus for sexual assault awareness month and asked if I can plan an event for military sexual trauma and they responded by saying that they “can not single out one group of people” and my request to do something MST-related was once again denied.

In the veterans community MST survivors are often shun out and not welcomed. In the feminist community veterans are often shun out and not welcomed. Even among women veterans community MST veterans are often shun out and not welcomed. I posted on a women veterans’ organization facebook wall and they deleted it because according to the admin they did not want women veterans to only be known as having MST but also to be known for all their accomplishments. Surviving MST is an accomplishment in itself. Read the stories on here. We all deserve medals.

Emotionally sitting in class is difficult. I always sit in the corner and that is my safe spot. If I don’t come to class early enough and someone takes my seat I break down in tears because I am overwhelmed in panic.  I cannot have male professors and can only deal with women professors.  It is so difficult. I tried to go to counseling on campus and the counselor did not understand the military structure but did try to convince me that she did because she read an article about military sexual trauma.

It is so difficult being an MST survivor.

11 comments

  1. I went back to school this past fall. So far it has been hard for me as well. I attended the vet club first meeting and it was all men so I left. My counselor at the Vet Center wrote a note to the disability center on campus and I was able to get a note taker because PTSD messed with my concentration. Also they saved the seat in the back row for me. Talk to your therapist if you seeing one now and make them write a note to the disability office. According to the ADA, PTSD is a recognized disability and the college should accommodate you.

    Instead of going back to the vet club try to find a student club that is of interest to you. I am joining an intramural volleyball team and the Sierra Club on campus. If you attend a large university I am sure you’ll find something that you like.

    I am a combat veteran and I received the same treatment at an American Legion post. Basically I was told that being a woman that I had it easy because I was in a supportive role even when I was deployed.

    The very first therapist that I saw (at the VA nonetheless) was a civilian. She spoke down to me because she had all these letters after her names from her degrees. She never served in the military but acted like she did. I saw her for 3 months and she was horrible. The only thing her education got her was learning how to read. She did not know a thing about the military! It was bad. I switched and have someone that I like a lot and is a veteran.

  2. I received the same response from the VFW. I was told that I was not a real veteran because I am a woman. I am a combat veteran! Also I had my fair share of counselors that feel that they know what we been through because they read articles and studies. You can’t help but laugh at how sheltered that they are and go find someone who is a veteran who may understand a bit more what we went through. Civilian rape and military rape are sooo different. I am seeing a male therapist which I know may not be for everyone but he is a veteran and much more understanding that the civilian woman therapist who thinks she knows it all because of her degrees.

    I attend a very small, all-women private liberal art school and we do not have a Veterans club on campus. We have some Veterans on campus but there is nothing organized by the college. My college does not even recognize Veterans day. What they do is hang some Veterans day-related posters up at the library and display books that are about Veterans however nothing for the Veterans. When I complained and asked if we can have a POW ceremony they viewed me as a trouble maker and said “We already do things for Veterans Day, we have Veterans-related books on display in the library.” I wanted to just slap them for being so ignorant and disrespectful.

    If your college allows start an MST club on campus. I would do it on my campus but the 10 or so Veterans that we have I already know 7 of them have MST and we already meet and speak even though it is nothing official from the college. Good luck and hang in there. It gets better. <3

    1. I cannot imagine what you have gone through. I want to speak to those who claim that someone who has not either been raped and/or been in the military will never understand or be able to help. There are a lot of male obstetricians catching babies out there who will never, ever have one. As a woman who has seen male and female practitioners, I can tell you I find men gentler and more understanding overall of women in labor. That said, there ARE crappy male obstetricians, too.

      There are plenty of poor practitioners. However, people who study for many years, who have internships and a genuine interest in their civilian duty to serve those who have served our country in the military is no less significant. I work with and go to school with women who are dedicated to helping, to understanding and supporting MST victims. Please don’t judge all of them as the same.

      I am sorry for your experiences with poor practitioners and hope you find one of those people I’ve had as professors, co-workers and classmates.

      1. I think we should ask are those civilians putting veterans out of a job. The “vet first” initiative at the VA is a joke. A good friend of mine, a social worker with over 20 years of social work experience AND a veteran applied to be the Women Veteran Coordinator at the VA in Boston. Instead they gave the position to some civilian yuppie who has even less experience than my friend. She is clueless when it comes to veterans issues aside from her “reading” some books.

        You can be as dedicated as you want-if you don’t have the experience of serving to me you not going to be good enough to be my therapist. Some veterans may disagree with me but most do agree.

        @Kathy. I too am in Massachusetts. I attend a state college and I love my school. It may not be as “prestigious” as your private college but the veteran community is close and we always do events even a POW/MIA ceremony. How can they show the Lioness and not have veterans speak afterward? If they could not find veterans on campus they can always contact the VA or a veteran organization to have a speaker who is a veteran come in.

    2. In your situation it would have been powerful for your college to gather a couple of the veterans and have then speak and share their military experience. Too many people think veterans are the middle-aged, men wearing Vietnam Vet ballcaps and not realizing that the 20-something years old sitting next to them in class is a combat veterans.

      Many view veterans as a case study and not as a peer. Having books displayed in the library instead of an event to honor the veterans on campus or a POW/MIA ceremony shows to me that they do not view veterans as somebody equal to them but instead something to be studied and learned about in books. It is hurtful.

      1. I forgot to mention that last year we did have a showing of the Lioness. I emailed those who were organizing the showing to see if I can speak after the film during the Q&As and they responded by saying No because they already chose the few who would speak, all Professors that done “research” on combat veterans. So their research on combat veterans is more important and valid than my experience of being in combat. I LOVE my college but they are sooo clueless when it comes to veterans issues. I am sure that veterans issues are not the only thing that they are clueless about. We learn about all oppressed groups through studies and literature and not through first-persons accounts. When we do have first-persons accounts it is usually someone speaking with an advance degree who is years away from whatever they experienced. If you don’t have the degree your words and views are invalid. It could also be a Massachusetts thing cause my school is run by a bunch of Massachusetts liberals wannabe hippies. If you show any Conservative view point they’ll attack you and tell you that you are wrong.

  3. My first year on campus the veteran coordinator was a woman student veteran that felt that women were all equal and advocated against doing anything just for women or an MST-Awareness event. After she graduated the next year the veteran coordinator was a male student veteran who knew the problems women faced and was more open on having events about MST. We had a MRCC speaker speak to us on campis, we had a viewing and talk about about the movie Lioness and tons of other events. He was great. It is still fairly early in the year to know how the 2011-2012 coordinator would be like. So far he seem to be more intact of the issues veterans as a whole are facing and not living in everything is perfect lala land that the coordinator from my first year was living in.

    The thing with student groups is that with new leadership they tend to change a lot every year. Try to get a leadership role in the club and make changes yourself.

  4. The anti-veteran stance is common on most campuses. I attended Penn State. Combat veterans are treated like animals on campus. They showed an educational video to the University community portraying a combat veteran as being stupid, angry and ready to kill. They pulled the video and offered an apology but not before the major news channels picked it up.

    This is what we get when we allow civilians to be making decisions for what is best for veterans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhLq9NPLv0M

    I am not a MST veteran so I can not relate but I do understand how colleges are often anti-veteran.

  5. When I returned home from Vietnam I was spat at and called a baby killer. I see society did not progress much since then.

    @Kathy. A college honoring Veterans Day by only having books display at the library or showing a film about women in the military without a woman in the military being there to answered any questions is a disrespect to all who served.

    @Caitlyn. I have seen many wonderful veterans that got passed over for jobs at the VA for non-veterans. Unless you are in a high profile position at the VA such as Sec. Shinseki they are not obligated to hire veterans. All that they have to do is say that the non-veteran was more qualified. In my opinion the most qualifying skill to work with veterans is being a veteran however tell that to the VA that is run by liberals with fancy degrees and zero common sense or courtesy to veterans.

    @KLG. That is the exact mentality that us veterans do not like. What exactly make you qualified to work with veterans? I am a Social Worker working at the VA and I work with idiots coming out of social work school that feel that they can change the world and make it better for veterans. You can do as many internships as you want, read as many books, and work for as many years at the VA it still does not make you qualify to help a veteran especially if you are on the mental health side of it. I have seen too many veterans being screwed over by civilians that do not understand the VA or DOD system. There is a movement at the VA that veterans are refusing to see civilian therapists and the few veterans working at the VA are feeling all the burden. The VA needs to be serious about hiring veterans and only hire a civilian if a veteran has no applied. You should be ashamed of yourself for taking jobs away from a veteran.

  6. I 100% agree with the Hire Vets first movement that the VA has failed in miserably at however realistically demanding only practitioners that are only veterans is a bit unrealistic. If I am having a heart attack I want to be treated by any doctor that is there and not wait around for them to find a doctor that has served. The only exception is counseling. I won’t ever see a non-veteran counselor.

    Mary, I am sorry that your college vet club seems to be mirroring the good ‘ld boy club of the military. Our rapists and our rape apologists are leaving the service and joining the VFW or the vet clubs on campus and bringing the same mentality. You don’t get a personality shift when you become a veteran. If you were a jerk in the military you most likely going to remain a jerk when you get out. I agree with the other suggestions to either join an other organization or to run for a leadership role in the vet club to make some changes.

    Kathy that is very scary that your college way of celebrating Veterans Day is by displaying books about Veterans like we are some sort of untouchable group that can only be studied through books. All the colleges that I ever attended had a Veterans Day lunch and some sort of remembrance ceremony cause you know Veterans are real folks and not a case study in a book. I do hope your college does not have a medical or counseling academic program and students intern at the VA. That could go so badly.

  7. I don’t know if there’s a way to make contact. I just found this site, and don’t know the policy. Yes, we are treated like pariahs. For now, I can just pray for you to have strength. This is starting to get some attention, and may get better.

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