Military Sexual Trauma is defined as any unwanted sexual activity, including gendered bullying or harassment, experienced during military service.
At the American Legion Mid-Winter Conference, veterans are learning about Military Sexual Trauma and how to help other veterans through it.
“That’s really the purpose of training like this is not only to just have a couple resources, but to have a community of resources that are educated and ready to help them once they are ready to say, “Hey, I was a survivor of sexual violence. Please help me,”” says Calie Lindseth, Women’s Veteran’s Coordinator for the ND Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Steven Anderson is one of those veterans getting training to help survivors.
“I think any leader, who is going to lead your people, who is going to hopefully make this organization grow – we need to have all the advice and all the information that we can to help anybody and everybody. We’re veterans. We’re supposed to help veterans, that’s their job,” says Steven Anderson, U.S. Marines Veteran.
Lindseth says that 3 in 10 male veterans report being sexually assaulted while in the military. While the statistic is 1 in 3 for women, by sheer number, more men have experienced sexual assault while in the military.
“Right now, in North Dakota, the average age of survivors is over 50, so they’re suffering from the ramifications of being a survivor, and the mental health that comes with it, for decades,” says Lindseth.
And they tend to be their own worst enemy when it comes to getting help.
“They feel -because they were under the influence of drugs, alcohol- they feel as if they have done something that challenged their safety that, “What I experienced could not have been assault,” says Lindseth.
Even if they’re not sure -if they are still dealing with the emotional trauma- survivors can still reach out for help without filing a report.
“Even if what they did experience may not be defined as sexual assault, there could be other benefits available to them and we still want to have that conversation,” says Lindseth.
All it takes is a conversation to take that first step towards healing.
She adds that it can be as easy as stepping into their County Veteran Service Office for survivors to get the help they need. They can also reach out to their local Veteran’s Affairs Department.