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Medals for Military Sexual Trauma

Medals for Military Sexual Trauma

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Published by carolyn6302
Medals for Military Sexual Trauma by Carolyn Gage

A proposal for awarding medals to women who are victims of MST.
Medals for Military Sexual Trauma by Carolyn Gage

A proposal for awarding medals to women who are victims of MST.

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Published by: carolyn6302 on Mar 01, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Copyright 2009 Carolyn Gage
VDW Survivor Medallion & VDW Survivor Medallion Design ©1997 Breaking the Silence AllRights Reserved (Credit for the name Veterans of Domestic Wars: Betsy Salkind. Photo byCorky Draconi.) Scroll down for more information.
Medals for Military Sexual Trauma: A Proposal
On March 16, 2009, a bill titled the “Military Domestic Violence andSexual Assault Response Act” (H.R.840) was referred to a Housesubcommittee. This is a bill to reduce sexual assault and domesticviolence involving members of the Armed Forces and their familymembers and partners through enhanced programs of preventionand deterrence, enhanced programs of victims services, andstrengthened provisions for prosecution of assailants.
I want topropose that part of these services and programs include theawarding of medals to victims of Military Sexual Assault.Medals provide tangible testaments to valor, courage, loyalty. Theygive occasion for public recognition, and in the cases where they areawarded posthumously, they can provide for some closure. Finally,they offer incentive. They aggressively proclaim that surviving assaultis valorous, something to be proud of; thereby counteracting anyherd-animal instinct to separate from the wounded.
The first medal for rewarding heroism by American soldiers wasestablished by—who else?—George Washington. It was called theBadge of Military Merit, and it was intended to recognize “anysingularly meritorious action.” The year was 1782. Later, during theCivil War, a “Medal of Valor” was created and signed into law byAbraham Lincoln. This morphed into the “Medal of Honor,” which is,today, the highest military decoration awarded by the United Statesgovernment.The criteria for receiving the Medal of Honor is distinguishing oneself “conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life aboveand beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against anenemy of the United States.” After the Medal of Honor, there is theMilitary Cross for an act of extraordinary heroism undertaken in themidst of great danger and at great risk to oneself. Then there is theDistinguished Service Medal, the Silver Cross and so on. The PurpleHeart is awarded for being wounded or killed while in the service.The US Military awards an array of medals for all kinds of things: for serving in a particular region (Antarctica Service Medal), in aparticular war (World War II Victory Medal), or in a unit that hasperformed valorously (Army Valorous Unit Award). And, yes, there iseven a gendered medal, the Women’s Army Corps Medal, awardedto women who served in the Corps during World War II.It’s time for the military to create a new category of medals,specifically to deal with Military Sexual Trauma. Military SexualTrauma has become so common, it has been designated a syndromewith its own acronym: MST. What is MST? According to the U.S.Department of Veterans Affairs, it is “sexual harassment that isthreatening or physical assault of a sexual nature.” The military'sdefinition of sexual assault includes “rape; nonconsensual sodomy;unwanted inappropriate sexual contact or fondling; or attempts tocommit these acts.” These traumas occur when a person is in themilitary, and the location, the genders of the people involved, andtheir relationship do not matter.
Just how common is it? According to the website of the Military RapeCrisis Center, one in three women in the military will be sexuallyassaulted. Two out of three women in the military will be sexually
harassed. Congresswoman Jane Harmon from California has donethe math: “A woman who signs up to protect her country is more likelyto be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”
And what about the perpetrators? Two interesting statistics: First,according to Helen Benedict, the author of three books about sexualassault, the military is waiving criminal and violent records for morethan one in ten new Army recruits. And, as Benedict notes, “Whenyou add in the high numbers of war-wrecked soldiers beingredeployed… the picture for women looks bleak indeed.”
Second,according to the Department of Defense's own statistics 74-85% of soldiers
of rape or sexual assault leave the military withhonorable discharges and their rape
do not appear ontheir record!
 And how are the women dealing with this? The real question is howare
being dealt with? Apparently, over 90% of all females thatreport a sexual assault are discharged from the military before their contract ends. From the 90%, around 85% are discharged againsttheir wishes. Almost all of the 85% lose their careers based onmisdiagnoses that render them ineligible for military service. Thesewould be things like adjustment disorder, personality disorder andpre-service existing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These areconditions that would, of course, be ineligible for VA treatment after discharge.
 And speaking of PTSD, out of every other type of trauma that canoccur in the military, sexual trauma is the number one cause of PTSD. Of the women who claim to have experienced MST, 40 to60% developed post traumatic stress disorder.
It’s important to note that victims of MST are more prone todeveloping PTSD than victims of sexual trauma outside the military.Why is this? Because the longer it takes the victim to get into safeand supportive circumstances, the more severe the PTSD. In fact,appropriate response within the first hours, or even minutes canmake a huge difference.
On a military base, this getting to a safe, supportive environment canbe a problem for a number of reasons. If the MST has occurred in the

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