Department of Veterans Affairs

Woman Veteran sexually harassed while going for rape counseling at the VA

Hello. I posted this several places. I hope that somebody at the VA can read this and do something about it. I am a 25 year old woman veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from being raped while serving in the U.S Army. Every single time that I go for rape counseling at the Phoenix VA Medical Center I get sexually harassed by other patients. No matter how bad I look the harassment is inevitable.

One recent afternoon I was still crying after my counseling session. I was waiting for the elevator to go to another appointment. I had my head down and tears rolling down my cheeks when a man wearing a Vietnam Veteran ball cap came up to me, put his arm around my shoulders and told me that I am “too pretty to be crying”. I pushed him away from me and it offended him. He asked why I was acting so “bitchy” if he was “only trying to help me.”

Here is a man that is old enough to be my father and he felt entitled to just come up to me, comment on my looks, tell me my emotions are invalid and then touch me.

I wish that I can say that this was an isolated incident. As a young woman veteran being sexually harassed or even worse when I go for rape counseling at the VA is something that I have to suffer through every week. When you complain to anyone in position at the VA regardless if it is the patient advocate or the women veteran program manager or even the office of the VA’s Director they refuse to take any actions and it is always “I am sorry that you feel this way” as if feeling bad for being sexually harassed when going for rape counseling is somehow my fault.

I have spoken to other women veterans that feel the same exact way. Some even stopped going to the PhoenixVA all together and are ignoring their health need. Women are veterans too. We earned the right to go to the VA for treatment. However when even the staff at the PhoenixVA sees nothing wrong with women veterans being sexually harassed on a regular basis how are things ever going to change?

There are an estimated 19,000 rapes each year in the military. Roughly 10% of all rapes are ever reported. Over 98% of rapists in the military never spend a day in prison and almost all of them receive an Honorable Discharge when they leave the service. Many of these rapists end up at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and continue to terrorize their female comrades.

Veteran sexually harassed at Detroit VA

Michelle, United States Marine Corps

I was raped while serving my country. This is my story. This is an update about MST treatment at the Detroit VA.

I have been in treatment at the Detroit VA and Vet Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that resulted from Military Sexual Trauma. I am currently rated at 100% for PTSD. The Vet Center in Detroit is great. I have zero complaints about them however the Detroit VA is absolutely in need of a complete do over. It is simply not a safe place for women veterans.

I try to stay away from the VA as much as I could often dealing with pain and illnesses alone without going to see a doctor. What I can not get away from is medication to help with PTSD, depression and insomnia. For that I have to  see a psychologist at the VA every few months for medication. I usually take off at least two days from work because; one to go to my appointment and one to stay in bed to cry from my appointment at the VA.

Every time that I go to the VA I get hit on like crazy by creepy older male veterans some who are old enough to be my dad. I am not even what you consider pretty. I’m a heavyset black girl to put it in the nicest possible way.  I complained to the patient advocate to the point that they no longer return phone calls. Last time I talked to a patient advocate she told me to dress less provocative. I am usually in sweats so not exactly sure what they want me to wear short of a burka.

The Women Veteran Program Coordinator is aware of the problems but she does not know what to do. I was told to report to her when I get harassed but usually I don’t even know the name of a fellow Veteran that hit on me in the hallway or in a waiting room. Due to HIPAA even if she knew who I was talking about she can not tell me a name so that I can report it and she can not legally report it for me. It is a Catch 22. I was also told that I can go directly to the VA Police but like most with MST I do not trust law enforcement and the last thing that I want to do is sit in a room with a male cop to tell them that I was sexually abused. No way am I going to put myself through that again.

I do not have any other options but to be sexually harassed when I get my treatment for rape. My job does not offer me insurance and I can not afford it elsewhere.